PISA Scores: What do they really tell us?

PISA, or the Program for International Student Assessment, is a global survey ranking the abilities of 15 year-olds in math, reading, and science. Results from 2012, found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_Student_Assessment ,were recently released. So, what do the PISA scores really tell us?

1. The U.S. is mediocre at best, placing 36th in math, 28th in sciences, and 24th in reading. Ahead of the U.S.? Countries like Vietnam, Slovenia, and Estonia. So, how can a country having such an admired and highly regarded system of higher education be so mediocre in educating its youth? Are the standards lower? Does the high quality of living serve as a de-motivator for American students (e.g., they don’t have to succeed in school to have basic life comforts)? Are the poor scores a result of cultural differences (e.g., U.S. teens play sports, plan proms, take vacations, go to parties, etc. and could spend more time on education)?

2. We don’t really know how China scores. While China is ranked first in every category, the Chinese only report data from Shanghai. In other words, they are only reporting results from the very best students. This would be analogous to the U.S. only reporting data from private schools. While students from Shanghai attend college at the rate of 84%, data suggests that nation-wide, about 25% of students attend college. So what do we make of these results? Is the Chinese educational system one that we should model? Or, are the results a product of skewing the data?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.