DEC Scan Journal : May 2013
Volume 32, May 2013 25 Contents Editorial Currents Teaching & learning Research Curriculum support Share this Resource reviews of countries taking part in PISA has effectively doubled since 2000. In 2000, only 32 countries took part in the study. By the 2009 PISA study, 65 countries participated, including for the first time Shanghai and Singapore, two of the top five. In 2012, additional countries such as Vietnam have been included in the list of countries taking part in PISA. Many different reasons have been offered for the high performance of East Asian education systems (e.g. Jensen, Hunter, Sonnemann, & Burns, 2012). Rather than simply attributing success to rote learning, some international research (NCES, 2003) is suggesting that classroom lessons in Hong Kong, for example, require greater deductive reasoning. If this is correct, how do students develop this capacity for reasoning and is it possible to strengthen students’ reasoning in Australia? Australian PM on Asian century, australianetworknews The role of symbols in learning to reason Reasoning, the capacity to consciously make sense of things, is considered to be a defining characteristic of human nature. Reasoning requires more than being able to associate two ideas such as smoke and fire. It requires the ability to create and manipulate a system of symbols (Atkin, 2006). One example of such a system of symbols and signs is language. Language is an intricate code and its role in transmitting thoughts and sustaining human culture has led to its privileged place in the school curriculum, particularly in reading and writing. Although spoken and gestural forms of language are part of the normal development of human beings, writing is not. Written language requires instruction and conscious practice to master. Writing systems represent words. Sometimes writing uses symbols that correspond more or less to the sounds within words (as in English), sometimes the symbols correspond to syllables (as in Japanese Kana) and sometimes the symbols correspond to morphemes (as in Chinese). A morpheme is the smallest meaningful word element. Unlike English where a morpheme can have several syllables, most Chinese morphemes have a single syllable. In seeking to understand the high- level of performance of our Asian neighbours, particularly in mathematics literacy, it is helpful to compare the role written and spoken language play in English compared with languages based on Chinese (Galligan, 1993, 2001). The recently adopted Australian Curriculum: Mathematics (ACARA , 2012) provides an opportunity to do this. For example, the expectation of the Foundation year (Kindergarten in NSW) in the Australian Curriculum in counting is: Establish understanding of the language and processes of counting by naming numbers in sequences, initially to and from 20, moving from any starting point. If we compare counting words in English to standard Chinese (Table 1), we can appreciate why English speakers struggle with the mixed heritage of our counting words. To The 2009 PISA results identified Shanghai-China as first ranked in reading, mathematics and science. However, the list of the top five countries in 2009 PISA on the mathematics scale sees a change to the group mentioned above, with Chinese Taipei entering the list and Finland dropping to sixth place. This produces an all-Asian top five in mathematical literacy. The rank-order of Australia’s performance in PISA may not be the most effective measure of our educational output. Comparing rank- order over time (as stated in the goal) is only feasible if the same countries are participating. To understand the limitations of the rank-order as a measure, it is necessary to appreciate the changing nature of the countries participating in PISA. The number Australia issued stark education warning, WorldNewsAustralia If we compare counting words in English to standard Chinese, we can appreciate why English speakers struggle with the mixed heritage of our counting words.