PISA results sneak preview: seven things we learned

26th October 2016 at 12:12
andreas schleicher
Andreas Schleicher, the man at the helm of the PISA international rankings, has given a taster of the 1,000-page analysis of the world's education systems due to be published in December

A ‘sneak preview’ of PISA 2015 this week gave us some information about what to expect from the global education rankings this year, but no hint of how the countries did.

Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the OECD took part in a webinar giving viewers an insight into the questions that students were asked and what lessons had been learned from previous years.

Here is some of what we learned:

  1. There were a lot of questions in the PISA 2015 tests. The test papers included 184 questions on science, 103 on reading, 81 on maths, 117 on collaborative problem solving and 43 on financial literacy. Each of the 510,000 participating students across 72 countries and economies was given a two-hour combination of these tasks.
  2. It isn’t what you know, it’s what you can do with what you know. Unless you already know how to breed Common Sole. The sample science questions shared included one about sustainable fish farming. Another asked: "Why does a meteoroid get faster as it approaches the Earth?"*
  3. Improvements in some countries suggest performance is not just down to culture. Andreas Schleicher argued that while some people may say that PISA results are down to culture, several education systems have improved school performance substantially. He said: “Those education systems didn’t change their culture, they changed what they did in education systems and saw significant gains. Culture may shape what we do but often education policy impact can be a very powerful driver."
  4. The PISA results, as the government consults on plans for more grammars in England, promise to be controversial. Mr Schleicher repeated his finding that the highest performing systems tend not to be selective.
  5. Shanghai topped the table in 2012, but there is no hint of who came first this time. And apparently, it doesn't matter too much anyway. Rankings are interesting, said Mr Schleicher, but “PISA is not just an assessment, it is really a tool to help teachers teach better, pupils learn better and schools to become more effective.”
  6. But there will be rankings? The report, published on December 6, will have 15 pages on the rankings and about 1,000 pages of deeper analysis.
  7. That will take a little while to read... And while the world is absorbing the results, the OECD team has already begun work on the next round of testing. There are more than 80 countries signed up for PISA 2018 and around 100 for PISA 2021.

*The four options were:

The meteoroid is:

a. pulled in by the rotation of the Earth

b. pushed by the light of the sun

c. attracted to the mass of the Earth

d. repelled by the vacuum of space 

Answer: it is attracted to the mass of the Earth.

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