Korea and Finland top the OECD’s latest
PISA (Programme for
International Student Assessment) survey of reading literacy among
15-year olds, which for the first time tested students’ ability to manage
digital information. In Ireland, there was a sharp slide in standards over the
past the decade.
The survey, based on two-hour tests of a half million students in more than 70
economies, also tested mathematics and science. The results for 65 economies
were released today.
The next strongest performances were from Hong Kong-China, Singapore, Canada,
New Zealand and Japan.
The province of Shanghai, China, took part for the first time and scored higher
in reading than any country. It also topped the table in maths and science. More
than one-quarter of Shanghai’s 15-year-olds demonstrated advanced mathematical
thinking skills to solve complex problems, compared to an OECD average of just
“Better educational outcomes are a strong predictor for future economic
growth,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “While national income
and educational achievement are still related, PISA shows that two countries
with similar levels of prosperity can produce very different results. This shows
that an image of a world divided neatly into rich and well-educated countries
and poor and badly-educated countries is now out of date.”
Some OECD countries saw strong gains in reading literacy, most notably Chile,
Israel and Poland, but also Portugal, Korea, Hungary and Germany. In
mathematics, Mexico, Turkey, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Germany saw rapid
improvements. In science, Turkey, Portugal, Korea, Italy, Norway, the US and
Poland showed the biggest improvements.
In the PISA 2009 mathematics assessment, the OECD countries
Finland, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Belgium,
Australia, Germany, Estonia, Iceland, Denmark, Slovenia and the OECD partner
countries and economies Taiwan, Liechtenstein and Macao-China also perform
significantly above the OECD average in mathematics.
In science, New Zealand, Canada, Estonia, Australia, the
Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Poland, Ireland
and Belgium as well as the partner country and economies Taiwan, Liechtenstein
and Macao-China also perform significantly above the OECD average.
The OECD studied differing results between girls and boys, as well as the
influence of class size, teacher pay and the degree of autonomy schools have in
allocating resources. Findings include:
- Girls read better than boys in every country, by an average of 39
points, the equivalent to one year of schooling. The gender gap has not
improved in any country since 2000, and widened in France, Israel, Korea,
Portugal and Sweden. This is mirrored in a decline of boy’s enjoyment of
reading and their engagement with reading in their leisure time.
- The best school systems were the most equitable - students do well
regardless of their socio-economic background. But schools that select
students based on ability early show the greatest differences in performance
by socio-economic background.
- High performing school systems tend to prioritise teacher pay over
smaller class sizes.
- Countries where students repeat grades more often tend to have worse
results overall, with the widest gaps between children from poor and
better-off families. Making students repeat years is most common in Belgium,
France, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain.
- High performing systems allow schools to design curricula and establish
assessment policies but don’t necessarily allow competition for students.
- Schools with good discipline and better student-teacher relations
achieve better reading results.
- Public and private schools achieve similar results, after taking account
of their home backgrounds.
- Combining local autonomy and effective accountability seems to produce
the best results.
- The percentage of students who said they read for pleasure dropped from
69% in 2000 to 64% in 2009
The OECD’s PISA aims to help countries see how their school systems match up
globally with regard to their quality, equity and efficiency. The best
performing education systems show what others can aspire to, as well as inspire
national efforts to help students to learn better, teachers to teach better, and
school systems to become more effective.
Ireland, the IBEC group that represents the high-tech sector, has expressed
serious concern at the very poor Irish results in maths literacy levels.
ICT Ireland director Paul Sweetman said:
"Today’s OECD results are very discouraging. In 2007, Ireland was ranked 17th in
the OECD with regard to maths literacy; we have now fallen to 26th, well below
the OECD average. Ireland's high-tech industries require students with the
highest levels of maths literacy. This downward trend must be reversed
"Today’s report also notes that students in Ireland have significantly lower
levels of use of ICT resources in school. To address this gap, it is crucial
that support for the ICT in the classroom initiative 'Smart Schools = Smart
In 2011, as part of the deliverables of the OECD’s 50th Anniversary, the
organisation will launch two new programmes to help countries build, maintain
and improve the skills of their citizens for tomorrow’s world. The first results
of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)
and the OECD Skills Strategy will be released in 2013.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, is
based in Paris and it's a think-tank for 33 mainly developed country government.
OECD member countries are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, the Czech
Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland,
Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand,
Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden,
Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. The European
Commission takes part in the work of the OECD.