Tuesday, December 06, 2016
PISA 2015 Results are Now Available
Prepare yourself for tons of news articles discussing your country's educational system and how well it's doing, or alarmist headlines about how poorly your country is doing, the results from the PISA 2015 test are out!
The PISA test is a test given out to a wide sample of 15-year-old students in countries from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (the OECD). Non-OECD countries can also be included in the program if they wish and Qatar has since 2006. The test is pretty comprehensive and looks at how well the students understand reading, mathematics and science. It's not a rote memorization test, to do well you have to be able to understand the material and apply it.
The results were released today and I guarantee you major newspapers around the world are pouring over the numbers and writing articles about how good/bad students did and thus how their educational system compares to other countries. UK papers absolutely love trashing on the UK because of this test, even though UK students tend to do pretty good, just not as good as some other countries. Singapore was #1 in all three categories.
For all of its wealth Qatar has never done well with the PISA test. In the early years it was scoring around the same level as much poorer countries such as Peru or Kyrgyzstan. Over time the scores have steadily improved, but there’s a long way to go before the scores or even comparable to OCED nations. So let’s see how Qatar did (I included the OECD average as well for comparison):
Okay, so the scores are up yet again, which is great. Also the average OECD score declined slightly across all three categories, maybe the test was a little bit tougher in which case the increase Qatar has shown is even better. Reading is up +14, Math +26 and Science an impressive +34 from the previous test. Slowly but surely Qatar is climbing up the rankings and its scores are now similar to countries that 6-10 years ago were well ahead. Qatar is now scoring roughly the same as countries such as Thailand, Columbia and Mexico.
It means there is still a long way to go though. Large swaths of the student population are just not able to understand and apply the material. PISA separates a students level of understanding into six categories (with 6 being the highest and 1 the lowest). The main table not only had the scores but also the percentage of students who scored level 5 or 6 in at least one subject, and the percentage of students who scored below level 2 in all three subjects. Qatar did not perform well when compared to Western countries. Below are some select countries for comparison:
Share of top performers in at least one subject (Level 5 or 6):
Share of low achievers in all three subjects (below Level 2)
Yep, 42% of the students scored poorly in all three categories. That's three times higher than the USA. Improvements in education in Qatar do not seem to really be reaching the students who need the most help, or perhaps the system still focuses on rote memorization.
Anyway there is tons more data and analysis available, the main report itself is 494 pages, and many countries have separate country-specific reports on top of that. Some countries even have statistics by region within a country so you can compare the different regions (Canada has some scores by each province, the Canadian news will be jumping on which provinces did better than others). There’s even analysis by gender, socio-economic background, whether the student was an immigrant, and so forth. Take some time to look over the detailed results.