10 December 2019
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is published every three years by the OECD and has received a large amount of media attention. It administers tests of reading, mathematics and science to representative groups of 15-year olds. Performance in these rankings is often used to evaluate national educational policies and could have serious implications for university admission policies. The top performer in the tests administered in 2018 was China, or more correctly Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang, which was first in all three rankings, replacing Singapore which is now in second place. The Chinese Special Administrative Region of Macau was third in all three categories, a notable improvement over 2006 when it was eighth for maths, and 20th for reading.
East Asian countries, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, continue to excel and some countries in Northern Europe such as Estonia, Poland and Netherlands do well for reading. It is noticeable that Finland, which was once reputed to have the best education system in the world, has fallen significantly although it is still above average.
Countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia do poorly in all three tests. No students from India and Africa south of the Sahara took the tests last year.
There is concern that scores in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States are stagnant or declining despite a succession of policy initiatives.