PISA survey: What is it?

Good morning all!

When it comes to education and the quality of it, a survey is on everyone’s lips: the PISA survey or test. We have already touched on the subject when we told you about Finland and Estonia, and we will certainly have to refer to it to explain the choice of other countries or their importance in the portrait of international education. . And since the results of the 2018 survey are expected in December 2019, we will certainly give it an analytical report in December or January next. But until then, we offer a presentation of this survey to allow you to understand what it is!

First, the acronym PISA stands for: International Program for the Monitoring of Student Achievement (Programme for International Student Assessment) and is conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with its member countries and numerous partner countries for a total of more or less 70 countries. The last of these surveys dates back to 2015, and the results that were published in December 2016 are those on which the international community relies to talk about the ranking of countries in education.

But what exactly is PISA? Here is the definition taken directly from the OECD website following the publication of the 2012 survey: http://www.oecd.org

“PISA is a survey conducted every three years among 15-year-olds in the 34 OECD member countries and in many partner countries. It assesses the acquisition of knowledge and skills essential to daily life at the end of compulsory education. The tests cover reading, mathematical and scientific culture and take the form of a background questionnaire. During each evaluation, one subject is given priority over the others. The first data collections took place in 2000.

Rather than mastering a specific school program, PISA tests students’ ability to apply knowledge acquired in school to real-life situations. The factors conditioning their performance as well as their potential for lifelong learning are also analyzed using questions on the learning approach and the social environment of the pupils. Thanks to a questionnaire completed by principals, PISA also takes into account the specific organizational aspects of the schools.

In each of the participating countries, between 4,500 and 10,000 students complete the background questionnaire for each assessment. Students are selected from a random sample of schools (public or private) as well as on an age criterion (from 15 years and 3 months to 16 years and 2 months at the start of the assessment) , and not according to their class.

In addition, the students selected in each country must take written tests with open or multiple choice questions. Each test has a longer test time for the main subject than the other subjects. The development and implementation of the test is carried out by an international consortium which works in close collaboration with the national project managers. The Consortium reports its results to the OECD Secretariat, which manages the project, as well as to the PISA Steering Committee, which develops its policy directions. ”

As indicated in the definition above, every 3 years, one subject is privileged over the others. For 2015, the survey focused on the performance and science skills of 540,000 students from 72 countries. The reason for this choice was based on the fact that, in today’s economy, and in a context where we are bombarded with information from all sides, everyone must be able to think scientifically in order to compare data, and sort out the true from the false, while remaining open to new discoveries and information that could change the game. This is why, although a classification also exists in mathematics and reading comprehension, it is the result in science which determines the recognized classification of the countries for 2015. Thus, we will say that Estonia has the 3rd rank , Finland, 5th and Canada, 7th, even if their classification for the other subjects is not the same.

So what about this investigation?

How important are these results? Does this investigation hold the absolute truth and deserve as much interest and confidence as what gave it? International opinion is divided! Although today it is an essential educational tool on which a large number of politicians rely to explain the changes applied to their curriculum, some question the use that is made of it. fact. Indeed, since this study is carried out using small samples of students from each country and only 15-year-olds attending school are tested there, the margin of error remains large and it becomes difficult to really decide between countries with similar results. In some countries, like ours, the vast majority of 15-year-olds go to school, but in other countries, the enrollment rate of young people of this age is much lower and often reserved only for more social classes. high. There is therefore reason to wonder about what the results would be if the survey applied to all and to a larger number. I offer this very interesting article to go a little further on the subject: https://www.letemps.ch/opinions/letude-pisa-fautil-prendre-serieux-sen-mefier

And if you want to learn more about Canada’s ranking and read the more in-depth analysis of it, it’s here. You can also compare the results of our country with those of the country of your choice.


And you, what do you think of this investigation?

See you next week,


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