The Conflict between Creating and Testing

Source: Zhao Learning blog, Aug 2012

American education policymakers have apparently entered the zone of doublethink.
They want future Americans to be globally competitive, to out-innovate others, and to become job-creating entrepreneurs. … In the meantime, the policymakers want students to be excellent test-takers.

In doing research for my book World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, I found a significant negative relationship between PISA performance and indicators of entrepreneurship.

Comparing the two sets of data shows clearly countries that score high on PISA do not have levels of entrepreneurship that match their stellar scores. More importantly, it seems that countries with higher PISA scores have fewer people confident in their entrepreneurial capabilities. Out of the innovation-driven economies, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan are among the best PISA performers, but their scores on the measure of perceived capabilities or confidence in one’s ability to start a new business are the lowest.

Moreover, what brings great test scores may hamper entrepreneurial qualities. Standardized testing and a focus on rote memorization, for example, are perhaps the biggest enemies of entrepreneurial capability.

Standardized testing rewards the ability to find the “correct answer” and thus discourages creativity, which is about asking questions and challenging the status quo.

A narrow and uniform curriculum deprives children of opportunities to explore and experiment with their interest and passion, which is the foundation of entrepreneurship. Constantly testing children and telling them they are not good enough depletes their confidence, which is the fuel of innovation. So, by any account, what policymakers have put in place in American schools is precisely what is needed to cancel out their desire for creative and entrepreneurial talents.

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