PISA (The Program for International Student Assessment): Everything You Need to Know

This program assesses 15-year-old students schooling in countries that form part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  The evaluated skills include science, math, and reading. Some critiques believe that when the federal government is more immersed in the nation’s school system, there will be an upsurge in education quality and a resultant increase in students’ educational success in the United States.

Initiated by the OECD, an intergovernmental economic organization, the PISA is a study performed to generate comparable data on education outcomes and policies across countries. The study began in 2000 with the objective of assessing the inclusivity and quality of school systems in member and non-member countries. The test is held every three years. Educational experts from around the world set the PISA test.

Unlike conventional exams and tests, the PISA test doesn’t assess students on their memory but tries to assess whether the students can apply the knowledge they’ve gained in primary and secondary education. The test also has an optional section on innovative subjects like financial literacy and collaborative problem-solving. Further, it assesses whether students can explain phenomena through interpretation of text or scientific thinking or solve mathematical problems. The PISA test is taken in the language of instruction that students are familiar with.

Countries generally volunteer to take the PISA test. If making all 15-year-olds in a country take the test isn’t feasible, regions are identified within that country where the test can be conducted. Within those regions, individual schools are selected that are approved by the PISA governing body and assessed using stringent criteria. These schools represent that country’s education system.

The objective of the PISA exam is not to rank the countries that volunteer to participate in the test but to provide a comprehensive analysis of how education systems are performing in the context of preparing their pupils for higher education and subsequent employment. After gathering results from across the globe, experts translate them into data points that are evaluated to score the countries.

If a country scores well, it indicates that not only does it has an efficient education system but an inclusive one, in which pupils from underprivileged and privileged backgrounds perform equally well. Further, the test assesses whether the education system in those countries teaches students enough social and community skills that will enable them to excel holistically as the workforce’s members. The OECD also hopes that the PISA test will help countries learn from each other regarding effective education policies and better their own systems.

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