Education PISA

Education PISA
Does anyone remember the early days of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reports kicking up a storm? The first study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was undertaken in 2000. But by the 2015 assessment cycle – whose findings on science were released in December 2016 – the reports found governments, educationalists and policymakers sitting up and taking notice. With additional results on well-being, financial literacy and collaborative problem solving to be released in 2017 media attention in individual countries showed that the results are being noted. After the 2012 tests were released New Zealand was rocked:

New Zealand pisa shock
New Zealand shock in 2012: https://nzinitiative.org.nz/insights/opinion/new-zealands-pisa-shock/

One of the reasons why PISA has become a talking point in the participating countries is the worldwide scope and regularity of the tests. To date more than 80 countries and economies have taken part in the only international education survey to measure the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds, an age at which students in most countries are nearing the end of their compulsory time in school. How students perform in the key areas of Maths, Reading and Science is not just useful for comparisons but it also indicates which students/countries will be best placed to elect to study in universities and colleges at third level.

Here are the countries and economies that had the 10 highest average scores in science, math and reading in the 2015 PISA.
10 highest average scores in science
*Note: Scores for China account for students in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Guangdong metro areas.

Some of the public policy issues the report highlights include educational stakeholders – governments, principals, teachers and parents – getting answers to questions such as are schools adequately preparing young people for the challenges of adult life? Are some kinds of teaching and schools more effective than others? And can schools contribute to improving the futures of students from immigrant or disadvantaged backgrounds?

Some of the 2016 media headlines included:

Singapore teens top global education ranking as US lags

US now ranks near the bottom among 35 industrialized nations in math

Pisa tests UK lags behind in global school rankings
The UK: http://www.bbc.com/news/education-38157811

Recovered from the pisa shock
Germany: https://www.goethe.de/en/kul/wis/20876526.html

Some of the key findings in relation to students’ performances in reading and mathematics showed:

  • About 20% of students in OECD countries, on average, do not attain the baseline level of proficiency in reading. This proportion has remained stable since 2009.
  • On average across OECD countries, the gender gap in reading in favour of girls narrowed by 12 points between 2009 and 2015: boys’ performance improved, particularly among the highest-achieving boys, while girls’ performance deteriorated, particularly among the lowest-achieving girls.
  • More than one in four students in Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu Guangdong (China), Hong Kong (China), Singapore and Chinese Taipei are top-performing students in mathematics, meaning that they can handle tasks that require the ability to formulate complex situations mathematically, using symbolic representations.

Swedish students show improvement in global tests
Sweden: http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=6580336

Pisa results Australian students

The focus on Science findings showed that:

    • Singapore outperforms all other participating countries/economies in science. Japan, Estonia, Finland and Canada, in descending order of mean science performance, are the four highest performing OECD countries.
    • In the majority of countries with comparable data, students’ performance in science remained essentially unchanged since 2006. However, mean performance in science improved between 2006 and 2015 in Colombia, Israel, Macao (China), Portugal, Qatar and Romania. Over this period, Macao (China), Portugal and Qatar increased the share of students performing at or above Level 5 and simultaneously reduced the share of students performing below the baseline level of proficiency (Level 2).
    • Even though gender differences in science performance tend to be small, on average, in 33 countries and economies, the share of top performers in science is larger among boys than among girls. Finland is the only country in which girls are more likely to be top performers than boys.
    • On average across OECD countries, 25% of boys and 24% of girls reported that they expect to work in a science-related occupation. But boys and girls tend to think of working in different fields of science: girls envisage themselves as health professionals more than boys do; and in almost all countries, boys see themselves as becoming information and communications technologies (ICT) professionals, scientists or engineers more than girls do.

Spain slips in Pisa education rankings
Spain: http://www.thelocal.es/20131203/spain-flunks-maths-in-pisa-test

Equity in Education:

• Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Hong Kong (China) and Macao (China) achieve high levels of performance and equity in education outcomes.
Socio-economically disadvantaged students across OECD countries are almost three times more likely than advantaged students not to attain the baseline level of proficiency in science. But about 29% of disadvantaged students are considered resilient – meaning that they beat the odds and perform at high levels. And in Macao (China) and Viet Nam, students facing the greatest disadvantage on an international scale outperform the most advantaged students in about 20 other PISA-participating countries and economies.
While between 2006 and 2015 no country or economy improved its performance in science and equity in education simultaneously, the relationship between socio-economic status and student performance weakened in nine countries where mean science scores remained stable. The United States shows the largest improvements in equity during this period.
• On average across OECD countries, and after taking their socioeconomic status into account, immigrant students are more than twice as likely as their non-immigrant peers to perform below the baseline level of proficiency in science. Yet 24% of disadvantaged immigrant students are considered resilient.
• On average across countries with relatively large immigrant student populations, attending a school with a high concentration of immigrant students is not associated with poorer student performance, after accounting for the school’s socio-economic intake.

Finland and Estonia top of the class in Eu for education
Finland and Estonia: http://www.euronews.com/2016/12/06/finland-and-estonia-top-of-the-class-in-eu-for-education

One interesting overall finding was on average across OECD countries, students in smaller classes reported more frequently than students in larger classes that their teachers adapt their instruction to students’ needs, knowledge and level of understanding.

Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, said:

“Over the past decade, the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA, has become the world’s premier yardstick for evaluating the quality, equity and efficiency of school systems. By identifying the characteristics of high-performing education systems, PISA allows governments and educators to identify effective policies that they can then adapt to their local contexts.”

” In the context of massive information flows and rapid change everyone now needs to be able to “think like a scientist”: to be able to weigh evidence and come to a conclusion; to understand that scientific ‘truth’ may change over time, as new discoveries are made and as humans develop a greater understanding of natural forces and of technology’s capacities and limitations.”


Author: Mary O’Carroll

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