The key to success


Want to know if education is doing its job – teaching kids how to think, live and learn? It turns out that there’s a test. It’s called the PISA test and it stands for the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA). It was developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2000 to help identify high-performing education systems, using the data gathered globally to help governments and educators to modify their teaching methods to achieve best practice. It also focuses on one very important concept – what students can do with what they know. It’s not just about being able to parrot the facts, but about being able to use these facts to make informed decisions and solve problems.

The 2015 PISA test focused on science. With good reason. A hybrid car, a painkiller, a tablet, the impact of Wi-Fi – these are the questions that the children of today have to answer. The goal was to establish how children across the world were performing within this area, and to identify countries where there were challenges. Africa did not even appear on the list. This is a concern for many reasons, but the most important is outlined in the PISA results document itself: 

“At a time when science literacy is increasingly linked to economic growth and is necessary for finding solutions to complex social and environmental problems, all citizens, not just future scientists and engineers, need to be willing and able to confront science-related dilemmas.�?  -OECD 

South Africa may not be on the list, but there are ways of igniting the fires of engineering and science and inspiring children to look to these fields in their futures. One of these ways happens to be edutainment. It may not sound scientific, but there are plenty of statistics to back up its efficacy as it is a tool that can transform how children approach learning.

It can also transform how successfully children approach the PISA test.

There is a significant advantage to children being able to apply what they have learned to real world scenarios. Just take a look at the question below, it is taken from the PISA test and shows exactly how important practical understanding is when it comes to passing the test.

Question: You have bought a new house and decided to build a fence around the perimeter. How would you measure the length of the fence?

Got the answer yet? Most students learn a formula that helps them to calculate the perimeter of the fence – Pi = TT = 3.14. Boom, problem solved. However, children who studied mathematics in a more unconventional way just used some rope to measure the perimeter. But what happened when both groups were asked to measure an asymmetrical perimeter? The children who had learned in more unconventional ways just used the same rope to get the right measurement using an experimental approach.  The first group got caught up in mathematical formulae. The result? Only 20% of the children in the unconventional group failed. In the traditional group, the failure rate was 80%.

This just goes to show – complex equations and calculations have little value if they are used incorrectly. It also goes to show that by introducing children to a variety of thought processes, ideas and methodologies, you are opening up their minds to think out of the proverbial box and become the problem solvers of the future. 

With Young Engineers, we have taken the concept of the PISA test and edutainment to create a programme that allows children to examine problems from a multitude of angles. They are given the freedom to engineer their way around designs and goals without constraints. The only limitations they have are their imaginations, the tools at their disposal and the expected end result. As PISA has proven, this is the best way to unlock potential for the future of children and the country.

You might also want to read this article on whether or not students should be taught on 21st century skills to cope better in the real world.