July 04, 2003

New OECD PISA Report

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment has updated its PISA 2000 report, Knowledge and Skills for Life. The new report, Literacy Skills for the World of Tomorrow - Further Results from PISA 2000, expands PISA 2000 with results from 15 middle income countries. The following is from a summary by the UN News Centre (July 1, 2003).

The report analyses data collected in 2002 from 15 mainly middle-income countries and economies - Albania, Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Hong Kong-China, Indonesia, Israel, Latvia, Liechtenstein, FYR Macedonia, Peru, Romania, the Russian Federation and Thailand - with data collected in 2000 from nearly all 30 OECD members and first published in 2001.

OECD countries are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States.

Among the non-OECD economies, students in Hong Kong-China emerge as star performers, achieving overall scores in reading proficiency equivalent to those of students in the top OECD countries, after Finland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland. Along with students in Japan and the Republic of Korea, they are also ahead of the rest, on average, in mathematical and scientific literacy.

On the other hand, students in Latin America are well behind. Peru has the largest proportion of students (80 percent) at Level 1 and below, indicating that students are having serious difficulties in using reading as a tool to advance and extend their knowledge and skills in other areas.

One can expect some agonized reporting from Israel in the coming days with regard to their educational system. As Israel Insider summarizes it, Report card on Israeli education: F:

In reading comprehension, Israel ranked 30th. The category was led by Finland, Canada and New Zealand, with the United States in 16th place. In mathematics, Israel ranked 31st, with Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea taking top marks. Canada was listed 7th, and the U.S. was listed 20th in math. In the sciences, Israel ranked even lower, in 33rd place. The top marks went to South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, with Canada in 6th place and the U.S. in 15th place.

Only students from Latin American countries, Bulgaria and Albania received consistently lower marks than Israeli students in the international survey.

PISA assessed mathematics, science, and language skills, but the present report is focussed on literacy. When PISA was first in the news I wrote some comments on the PISA philosophy and also a review, Mathematics in the OECD PISA Assessment. My view is that PISA is about as fuzzy a test as can be imagined, and certainly for mathematics quite unsuitable to evaluate student learning. Just the same, the results will have some correlation with student performance and are not entirely ignorable.

Posted by Bas Braams at July 4, 2003 05:39 PM