The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducts a worldwide study, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) every three years. PISA 2012 was its 5th survey since 2000. The study assesses “the competencies of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science [on a 1000 point scale].” PISA 2012 tested more than 510,000 students in 65 countries.
The main reason for administering the PISA is to affect policy making in the world. The OECD states that PISA results reveal what is possible in education and allows for our world’s policy makers to set policy targets against measurable goals achieved by other education systems. It also allows for countries to learn about “policies and practices applied elsewhere”.
PISA results reveal what “students in the highest-performing and most rapidly improving education systems can do.” Students took a paper-based test that lasts 2 hours as well as problem solving problems, which were administered via a computer-based assessment. The tests were a mixture of open-ended and multiple-choice questions. In addition, students and schools answered questionnaires to provide information about the students’ backgrounds, schools and learning experiences and about the broader school system and learning environment.
The results were published earlier this week. Asian countries outperformed the rest of the world, with China and Singapore having the top scores in math. But PISA gives much more than hard numbers.
In its results publication, the OECD talks about what PISA says about other important factors. Among the results, there are global comparisons on students sense of belonging at school, whether they are happy at school, the allocation of resources across schools, teacher-student relations, country wealth, among others.
The National Center for Education Statistics’s (NCES) statement on the PISA 2012 results highlights an important fact about PISA. It highlights the fact that, “PISA assesses the application of knowledge in mathematics, science, and reading literacy to problems within a real-life context.” What’s more, as the NCES remarks, the focus of PISA is not “curricular outcomes” and it “focus[es] on the application of knowledge and skills.”
One of PISA’s drawbacks is that the data is extremely complex and takes a while to “evaluate and analyze properly.” Nevertheless, the results reveal no measurable change in the average scores of a lot of countries, and the United States is among those countries. The National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, explains that “U.S. students won’t rank higher on PISA…until the nation properly addresses poverty and its effect on students.”
While there are many criticisms of this survey, I believe that it is a step in the right direction. The state of global education is crucial to our world’s future. I think that the mission behind the PISA survey is a great one and one that can, ultimately, lead to fundamental changes in our world’s education systems. What do you think of PISA?