The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has released the results of its latest PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) education test, which evaluates the quality, equity and efficiency of school systems around the world.

PISA 2018 tested around 600,000 15-year-old students in 79 countries and economies on reading, science and mathematics. The main focus was on reading, with most students doing the test on computers.

Most countries, particularly in the developed world, have seen little improvement in their performances over the past decade, even though spending on schooling increased by 15% over the same period.

In reading, Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China), together with Singapore, scored significantly higher than other countries. The top OECD countries were Estonia, Canada, Finland and Ireland.

In reading, the UK is 14th, up from 22nd in the previous tests three years ago; in science, it is 14th, up from 15th; and in maths, it is 18th up from 27th.

Overall, pupils in England performed well above the OECD average, with a higher proportion of top performing pupils working at the highest PISA proficiency levels (Levels 5 and 6) and a lower proportion working at the lowest levels (below Level 2) defined as ‘basic proficiency’ by OECD.

According to Carole Willis, speaking for the National Foundation for Educational Research in England and Wales (NFER): “PISA provides a valuable and rigorous way for nations to benchmark their pupils’ performance and learn from policies and practices in other countries.”

She highlighted, however, that, although pupils in England have continued to perform well in reading and science and have made significant improvement in maths, 66% of pupils described themselves as sometimes or always feeling worried.

“While most pupils were happy,” Ms Willis noted, “pupils in England were more likely to have negative feelings than pupils across the OECD countries, which raises questions which need further investigation.”

See for more details of the OECD’s findings.

Last reviewed 4 December 2019