PISA 2009 Results

Various authors, OECD, Dec 08, 2010
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Everybody, it seems, is writing about the most recent release of results from the Program on International Student Achievement (PISA). The stories are clustering around two major themes: angst at results showing the Americans continuing the run in the middle of the pack, prompting calls for a new 'Sputnik moment', and surprise at the appearance of China in the standings (well, China-Shanghai - Hong Kong has always been there, and China-Macau, while new, runs a very average 28th. There's a bit of a subtheme here in Canada about a slippage in the rankings (we're third in OECD, sixth overall, out of 65 countries or 'economic units' sampled).

Most of the coverage does not actually link to the results, so I'll deal with that first. Here's the OECD Pisa 2009 Results page, and here is a direct link to the PDF of the Executive Summary.

Because it's offered as rankings, that's where almost all of the analysis falls. But I was much more interested in some of the analysis offered by the survey authors. Readers definitely should look beyond the league tables. To me, the findings most relevant are that "The best performing school systems manage to provide high-quality education to all students," and moreover, "although poor performance in school does not automatically follow from a disadvantaged socio-economic background, the socioeconomic background of students and schools does appear to have a powerful influence on performance." Countries that address social inequalities demonstrate better learning outcomes. Countries that ignore them remain stationary or begin to drop in the rankings.
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