Major domain: reading literacy

  • Differences between countries in reading literacy are substantial, though differences within countries ones are greater.
  • PISA reveals a huge gap between the 10% of students capable of sophisticated reading tasks and the 6% incapable of simple tasks as well as the 12% capable only of simple tasks, who also pose a serious challenge, especially in countries where they are most numerous.
  • Even where relatively few students underperform internationally, a large number may be below national benchmarks.
  • The countries that achieve both high average performance and relatively low variation between students provide a challenge for others, particularly those that have systems allowing wide differences between schools. Because PISA suggests, so far tentatively, that overall variation is greater where students are channeled into different kinds of schools from an early age. For some countries the task is to reduce difference between schools, for others, to reduce differences within schools, and in some cases, both.

Mathematical literacy and scientific literacy

  • The goal that everyone should be mathematically and scientifically literate is still remote, but there are countries that succeed with high average performance and low disparities.
  • Differences between countries could affect future competitiveness.
  • Higher spending is associated with higher performance, but does not guarantee it.
  • While some disadvantages remain for females, males’ underperformance is a growing problem though some demonstrated that gender differences can be successfully addressed. Gender inequalities remain in the promotion of motivation and interest in different subjects. Improving males’ engagement in reading and females’ interest and self-concept in mathematics remains essential in order to ensure that all students realize their potential.

Socio-economic status (SES)

  • Differences between countries in the impact of home background on student performance give some hope that it can be reduced. Parental occupation is strongly associated with performance as are possessions and activities related to ‘classical’ culture. Parents’ education and quality of communication with children show a positive association as well, while family wealth tends to be less strongly associated with student performance. The disadvantages of migrants are complex and varied, but need to be addressed. Family disadvantage will remain from generation to generation, unless education systems take steps to mitigate its effects.

Link to the international PISA2000 report