What is PISA and what do the results say about New Zealand schools?
Results from the “PISA” test are often quoted in the media and by various people with an interest in education. However, it seems that there is little easily accessible information out there for principals that is suitable for sharing with staff, Boards, parents and communities (unless, of course, you want to wade your way through a 451-page report...) The purpose of this newsletter is to provide a summary of some of the aspects of the PISA testing. We hope you will find this useful.
The OECD are the organisation that run the PISA testing. OECD stands for “Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development”. Formed in 1961, its mission is to promote practices that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.
“PISA” stands for “Programme for International Student Assessment” – an international study that began in 2000. It aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in participating countries/economies. Specifically, PISA assesses how far students near the end of compulsory education have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in society. Reading, mathematical and scientific literacy are covered not merely in terms of mastery of the school curriculum, but in terms of important knowledge and skills needed in adult life. Visit Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1I9tuScLUA to see a video that explains PISA in more detail with accompanying graphics.
Since the year 2000 over 70 countries/economies have participated in PISA. There are reports available online of PISA results for 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009. Visit http://www.oecd.org/pages/0,3417,en_32252351_32235731_1_1_1_1_1,00.html
Each time the PISA testing is held, the test data is analysed and reported, and also a series of ‘in-depth reports” are written. For example, the reports available from the 2009 PISA testing include in-depth reports titled: “Public and private schools: How management and funding relate to their socio-economic profile” (examining the socio-economic profiles of the public and privately managed schools that participated in the PISA 2009 survey; and “Let's Read them a story! The parent factor in education” (examining how and whether parents' involvement in their child's education is related to his or her proficiency in and enjoyment of reading). Other reports are also published by the OECD from time to time using PISA findings, for example: “Against the odds: Disadvantaged children who achieve in schools” available at http://browse.oecdbookshop.org/oecd/pdfs/free/9810061e.pdf
What Does the Data Tell Us About New Zealand?
If the results of the 25 or so top-performing countries are compared, there are only 5 countries/economies who have performed above the OECD average in all tests since PISA began in 2000. These countries/economies are (in order based on an estimated overall performance): Finland, Korea, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
If other countries/economies are added that have participated in more recent years and who have performed above the OECD average in all tests in which they have participated, the list is (again, in order): Shanghai (ranked first in all categories in its first participation in 2009), Finland, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands and Estonia.
Other countries that perform consistently well are: Chinese Taipei, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Belgium.
The United States, by way of contrast, has scored above the OECD average only once in total across the 2000 – 2009 tests, while the United Kingdom has done so 5 times in total across the 2000, 2006 and 2009 tests.
The performance over time of New Zealand is varied. Overall, our performance in Science in relation to other countries has remained about the same, while our performance in both Mathematics and Reading has declined in relation to other countries. This is accounted for in part by the fact the higher performance countries have entered the PISA process (e.g. Estonia) and Shanghai, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei are all ranked as separate countries/economies rather than aggregated into “China”. (Download the full Newsletter from the APPA website “Information Centre” page to view a graph of these rankings http://www.appa.org.nz/knowledge.htm)
The mean scores over time of New Zealand are also varied. The mean scores in Science have improved over time, while those for Reading and Mathematics dropped in 2003 from 2000, but have remained largely consistent since 2003. (Download the full Newsletter from the APPA website “Information Centre” page to view a graph of these scores http://www.appa.org.nz/knowledge.htm)
Download the full Newsletter from the APPA website “Information Centre” page to view a table showing the top 20 performing countries/economies in the PISA tests from 2000 – 2009. This information enables you to track the performance of vaiours countries. New Zealand is highlighted throughout http://www.appa.org.nz/knowledge.htm)
What are the overall results of the 2009 PISA testing?
By age 15, student performance is strong across all levels relative to other countries. In 2009, New Zealand was ranked 5th out of 34 OECD countries for mean PISA scores across reading, mathematics and science.
However, this achievement ‘hides’, to some extent, 3 problems:
There are a number of other interesting facts as well. For example:
What are the specific findings for New Zealand in each area in 2009?