Major domain: scientific literacy

  • On average across OECD countries, 1.3% of 15-year-olds reached level 6, the highest proficiency level. These students could consistently identify, explain and apply scientific knowledge, and knowledge about science, in a variety of complex life situations. The number of students at level 6 cannot be reliably predicted from a country’s overall performance.
  • The number of students at low proficiency is also an important indicator – not necessarily in relation to the development of future scientific personnel but in terms of citizens’ ability to participate fully in society and in the labour market. At level 2, students start to demonstrate the science competencies that will enable them to participate actively in life situations related to science and technology. Across the OECD, on average 19.2% were classified as below level 2, including 5.2% below level 1.
  • Males and females showed no difference in average science performance in the majority of countries. If there were differences, these were small. However, similarities in average performance mask certain gender differences: in most countries, females were stronger in identifying scientific issues, while males were stronger at explaining phenomena scientifically. Males performed substantially better than females when answering physics questions.

Reading literacy and mathematical literacy  

  • Reading is the area with the largest gender gaps. In all OECD countries in PISA2006, females performed better in reading on average than males. Across the OECD area, reading performance generally remained flat between PISA2000 en PISA2006. This needs to be seen in the context of significant rises in expenditure levels. 
  • Overall gender differences in mathematics were less than one-third as large as for reading. This has not changed since PISA2003.

Student attitudes to science

  • A strong acceptance by students that science is important for understanding nature and improving living conditions extends across all countries in the survey. However, this was mirrored to a much lesser extent in students’ responses to the wider socio-economic benefits of science.
  • The majority of students reported that they were motivated to learn science, but only a minority reported interest in a career involving science. Within each country, students who reported that they enjoyed learning science were more likely to have higher levels of science performance. While this does not show a causal link, the results suggest that students with greater interest and enjoyment of science are more willing to invest the effort needed to do well.
  • Students with a more advantaged socio-economic background were likely to show a general interest in science.

Link to the international PISA2006 report