People behind PISA: Alexandra Tomescu
We meet Alexandra Tomescu, one of OUP’s team of publishers focused on science in our International team, who was involved in creating the PISA 2025 Science Framework.
Tell us a bit about you. What’s your role?
I have been passionate about science from a young age. I find science fascinating, and I am particularly interested in genetics, interested in what happens at a micro level in the body, and that’s what attracted me to biochemistry.
I studied Molecular Cellular Biochemistry at Oxford as an undergraduate and went on to complete a Doctorate in Biological Physics. During my time as a student I got involved in lots of science engagement — lots of family fun science — and I absolutely loved communicating science.
So, when I saw an opportunity to work on science resources at OUP, I applied and joined OUP in 2014. Since 2017, I have mostly focused on science and maths for the International Baccalaureate.
What I find great about science is that it is not a fixed thing, it actually encompasses so many different areas and specialisms. It is a great adventure of curiosity and discovery — you always learn more. It really excites me – we hope through our resources we can spark curiosity in learners and teachers and inspire them. Science is not about being in a lab and doing experiments, it is about better understanding everyday life and being able to make considerate decisions that are informed and based in the evidence we currently have.
How were you involved in creating the PISA 2025 Science Framework?
You hear about PISA on the radio, but it has been a great privilege to be involved behind the scenes. I worked on the bid in 2019 together with Dave Leach and other experts from OUP, and was involved in an event to set the strategic vision of the Framework by discussing what does a 15-year-old need to be able to do with science in 2025? In developing the new Science Framework, We both responded to the latest trends and made a leap of imagination about what students might need to know, whilst ensuring the results are still comparable with previous editions of PISA.
Later, I became the Content lead for the Framework on behalf of OUP. This meant I attended all the expert meetings and was involved in drafting the document Framework through several rounds of feedback from the PISA governing body, representing the participant countries.
What are you most proud of in the Framework?
What makes PISA unique is that it looks at application of knowledge, It consists of a test plus questionnaire which measures attitude and this time we’re asking questions around science identity, and how students see themselves interacting with science.
A big focus of this Framework is how we apply knowledge to make decisions, to make our everyday life better. If we think about sustainability and climate change, or decisions to do with our health such as how we move, or whether we should be vaccinated, these are all decisions rooted in science, which is why everyone needs a good science education to make decisions in an informed way.
What’s next for you?
I’m back to looking after a fantastic range of science publishing for international learners, this time with a focus on sport, exercise, health science, as well as environmental science.
With the resources I commission, I want to ensure that all young people have the necessary understanding of science which will allow them to make good decisions in the future, while also inspiring as many young people as possible to go on and study science.
We recently published our new DP Science blended resources which push the boundaries both in terms of content, by showcasing underrepresented scientists’ work, and in how learners engage with our new adaptive product.
I’m proud that every time we publish something we push the boundary in some way; whether it is by creating a different lens to look through on a subject that is so well known – e.g. Maths – or whether it is around surfacing more underrepresented categories of scientists or mathematicians, creating opportunities to showcase examples we wouldn’t otherwise have done.
As science and society move on, our publishing moves too.