Pisa star Finland falls down rankings

There are some surprises in the latest Pisa rankings, with historically high performers experiencing a downturn

Catherine Lough

We need to make more use of Pisa education data, says leading academic

Some of the world’s top performers in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) have performed significantly worse in reading, maths and science in 2018.

Japan, Finland and Canada all performed worse in the 2018 Pisa assessments than they have in previous years, according to data released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) today. 

Finland's science scores have tumbled by nine points in 2018, pushing it out of the top five, into sixth place. 

It also dropped by six points in reading,  placing seventh – down from fourth in 2015 – and fell by four points in maths, falling to 16th, down from 13th in 2015.

In April, Tes considered how Finland's consistent hard work on curriculum design had paid dividends, with the country repeatedly in the top 10 for Pisa performance across all subjects, outstripping the UK in science, maths and reading scores.

Pisa: Finland in decline

Another historical high performer, Japan fell by 12 points in reading compared with 2015. In 2015, Japan was ranked eighth for reading, whilst it was ranked 15th in 2018.

It also achieved lower scores in maths and science in 2018, but still ranked highly in both subjects: sixth and fifth respectively. The country's overall scores in reading, maths and science also remain higher than the OECD average for these subjects.

While Canada has typically done well in Pisa,  it saw a slight decline in its 2018 performance across all three subject areas, with its science scores plunging by 10 points.

In 2015, it took third place for reading, while this year it fell to sixth place.

Last year: Pisa: At-a-glance global education rankings in science, maths and reading

Background: What is the Pisa test and what does it measure?

Long read: Does Pisa really tell us anything useful about schools? 

Another surprise is Taiwan, which has seen an average slump across its scores of seven points, with science scores falling by 17 points since 2015. 

While Taiwan was in fourth place for science in 2015, it placed 10th in 2018.

Other nations showing signs of significant decreases in performance were Germany and Russia.

Germany saw its average reading performance fall by 11 points since the last Pisa rankings, although this was from a strong starting point. It was ranked in 11th place in 2015 for reading, but fell to 20th place in 2018.

However, German 15-year-olds still scored above the OECD average in reading, mathematics and science in 2018.

Meanwhile, Russia’s overall average performance in reading, maths and science fell by an average of 10 points across all subjects. Russian teenagers scored lower than the OECD average in reading and science. In reading they fell from 26th to 31st place.

Big improvers

There were some dramatic increases in scores from some nations, albeit from a low starting point.

Turkey saw its performance across all areas increase by an average of 38 points – the highest level of improvement for any country. In 2015, Turkey was ranked 50th for maths and reading and 54th for science, whereas this year it was ranked 40th for reading, 42nd for maths and 39th for science.

Similarly, North Macedonia made significant gains, increasing scores across all subjects by an average of 31 points. However, this marked improvement in scores did not significantly affect its rankings. In 2018 it ranked 67th for reading and maths, and 63rd for science, up from 69th for reading and maths and 68th for maths in 2015.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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