PISA stands for Programme for International Student Assessment conducted under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The findings is released on 7 December 2010.
65 countries (some countries participated as a city e.g. Shanghai)took part in the study. It is not a competition but it is a study that contains information to help education systems navigate itself in relation to the world.
15-year olds were assessed in areas of reading, maths and science. PISA 2009 has reading as its focus. It is conducted once every three years.
The study finds out the extent to which 15-year olds (those near the end of secondary education) are able to analyse, reason and apply their knowledge in unfamiliar settings.
In particular, the proportion of students in the two highest levels of proficiency (Level 5 and Level 6) is suppose to indicate the proportion of talent pool in a country.
Countries that I have worked with are mostly represented in the study - Singapore, the Netherlands, the US, Chile, Thailand, and Indonesia. The Philippines and Malaysia did not participate. In Singapore, 5152 students randomly sampled 15-year-old students from 167 secondary schools and 131 students from 4 private schools participated in PISA 2009. This is the first time Singapore took part in PISA. It has always taken part in TIMSS which focuses more on attainment of curricular goals and PIRLS.
Look out for a few things in the reports.
Proportion of students in a country that are in the highest level of proficiency in all three domains - reading, maths and science. These is indicative of the talent pool in a country. On average, this is less than 5%.
PISA 2009 focuses on Reading - so there are quite detailed findings about Reading. (In Singapore, students do this portion in English).
Look out for the proportion of students who are deep and wide readers.
Find out what type of reading materials are best in helping students become good readers.
Other than ranking, look out for proportion of top performers in each domain.
Also look for for the indicator that tells us about how students in the lowest quarter in term of socio-economic background perform. This is indicative of social mobilty trough education.
The Executive Summary and the Report is available on the website. In mathematics, China-Shanghai (China participated as provinces rather than as a whole country) was top with Singapore second.Third was China-HongKong (not significantly higher than Korea) with Korea, Chinese Taipei, Finland and Liechtenstein (these countries scores were not statistically different from each others') making up the other top-performing countries. Japan is a notch below with countries like Switzerland, Canada, the Netherlands and China-Macau.
Students' performance at Level 6 and Level 5 are important. This is the excerpt from the Report.
"Proficiency at Level 6 (scores higher than 669 points)
Students proficient at Level 6 on the mathematics scale can conceptualise, generalise, and utilise information based on their investigations and modelling of complex problem situations. They can link different information sources and representations and flexibly translate them. They are capable of advanced mathematical thinking and reasoning. These students can apply insight and understanding, along with a mastery of symbolic and formal mathematical operations and relationships, to develop new approaches and strategies for addressing novel situations. Students at this level can formulate and accurately communicate their actions and reflections regarding their findings,interpretations, arguments, and the appropriateness of these to the given situations.
Across OECD countries, an average of 3.1% of students perform at Level 6 in mathematics. In Korea and Switzerland,around 8% of students are at this level, and more than 5% of students in Japan, Belgium and New Zealand perform at this level. Among the partner countries and economies, in Shanghai-China, more than one-quarter of students perform at Level 6, while in Singapore, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong-China the proportion is 15.6%, 11.3% and 10.8%, respectively. In contrast, less than 1% of students in Mexico, Chile, Greece and Ireland reach Level 6, and in the partner countries Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Colombia, Jordan, Albania, Tunisia and Panama, the percentage is close to zero.
Proficiency at Level 5 (scores higher than 607 but lower than or equal to 669 points)
Students proficient at Level 5 can develop and work with models in complex situations, identifying constraints and specifying assumptions. They can select, compare, and evaluate appropriate problem-solving strategies for dealing with complex problems related to these models. Students at this level can work strategically using broad, well-developed thinking and reasoning skills, appropriately linked representations, symbolic and formal characterisations,and insight pertaining to these situations.
Across OECD countries, an average of 12.7% of students are proficient at Level 5 or higher. Korea is the OECD country with the highest percentage of students – 25.6% – at Level 5 or 6. Switzerland, Finland,Japan and Belgium have more than 20% of students at these levels, while in the partner countries and economies Singapore, Hong Kong-China and Chinese Taipei, the percentage of students at these levels is 35.6%, 30.7% and 28.6%, respectively, and in Shanghai-China, more than half of all students perform at least at Level 5. With the exception of Chile and Mexico, more than 5% of students in every OECD country reach at least Level 5.