PISA results published in Dec 2019: Which countries score the highest and why?

PISA Rankings published in Dec 2019

PISA Rankings 2019: Average scores of math, science, and reading for OECD.

Programme for International Student Assessment, better known as PISA, released the results for its 2018 assessment on 3 December 2019. PISA is a well-acknowledged international benchmarking test, which measures the efficiency of educational systems around the world. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducts the examination. Coined as the “Olympic Games for Education”, PISA aims to highlight the fallacy of the various educational systems globally and encourage global leaders to learn from their better-performing counterparts during policy changes. The test runs every three years.

PISA measures 15-year-old students in three categories – Reading, Mathematics, and Science. In participating countries these students are randomly selected from a cohort of 15-year-olds with a mix of different backgrounds.

See the Pisa rankings of the top 10 countries below:

Source: Pisa 2018 Insights and Interpretations – Andreas Schleicher

The latest results saw Singapore slip from its first place to rank second, losing to China, which is represented by four cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu – in all three categories. Macau and Hong Kong came in third and fourth respectively in both Reading and Mathematics, while Macau and Estonia take the third and fourth place respectively in Science. The fifth place is taken by Estonia, Taiwan, and Japan respectively for Reading, Mathematics, and Science.

The PISA 2018 results put a spotlight on East Asia, with at least five East Asian states ranking in the top ten spots for all categories. What are these states doing that is different from the rest of the world? How do they manage to defend their rankings in every PISA assessment?

We may not be able to discover the exact reasons behind the results as education is complicated. Still, it could boil down to specific beliefs and culture found in East Asia, such as the following.

  1. Positive culture and mindset towards education

Education is highly-regarded in East Asia. Parents believe that the road to success lies in education. They work hard to give their children access to specific schools. East Asians also believe that effort produces results. This positive mindset creates the expectation that children can perform and excel their abilities with focused effort. Through rote learning, intensive tuition sessions, and various other technological tools, children in East Asia receive access to more knowledge than their global counterparts.

  1. Teaching methods

East Asia maintains a stricter educational paradigm, where the learning process is predominantly teacher-centered. Study materials are generally provided by teachers and students are supposed to listen without any further interaction, unlike western education which is a student-centered learning process and students are encouraged to participate and actively get involved in the learning process. Additionally, East Asian education is based on memorization and exam-oriented learning, which also explains their higher scores in standardized testing.

  1. Passionate, well-trained teachers

Teaching is a respected profession in East Asia. These passionate teachers strive to do their best for the students under their care. Importantly, the governing body supports teachers with useful educational tools, and regular training to upgrade their skillsets as a nurturer for the next generation. Teachers are also forerunners in imparting crucial life skills.

While the above is not the be-all and end-all for the reasons why East Asia tops the PISA results, they are likely to be contributing factors for a well-rounded, balanced educational system.

If you want to know how one specific country performs on the PISA 2018, click on the link below and you can see the performance per country in comparison with the average in Reading, Mathematics, and Science. It is a fascinating exercise that we recommend highly!



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