The findings in this paper allow policy makers around the world to gauge the knowledge and skills of students in their own countries in comparison with those in other countries, set policy targets against measurable goals achieved by other education systems, and learn from policies and practices applied elsewhere.
What is PISA?
“What is important for citizens to know and be able to do?” That is the question that underlies the world’s global metric for quality, equity and efficiency in school education known as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA assesses the extent to which 15-year-old students have acquired key knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. The assessment, which focuses on reading, mathematics, science and problem-solving, does not just ascertain whether students can reproduce what they have learned; it also examines how well they can extrapolate from what they have learned and apply that knowledge in unfamiliar settings, both in and outside of school. This approach reflects the fact that modern societies reward individuals not for what they know, but for what they can do with what they know.
PISA results reveal what is possible in education by showing what students in the highest-performing and most rapidly improving education systems can do. The findings allow policy makers around the world to gauge the knowledge and skills of students in their own countries in comparison with those in other countries, set policy targets against measurable goals achieved by other education systems, and learn from policies and practices applied elsewhere.
Key features of PISA 2012
- The PISA 2012 survey focused on mathematics, with reading, science and problem-solving minor areas of assessment. For the first time, PISA 2012 also included an assessment of the financial literacy of young people.
Participating countries and economies
- All 34 OECD member countries and 31 partner countries and economies participated in PISA 2012, representing more than 80% of the world economy.
- Around 510 000 students between the ages of 15 years 3 months and 16 years 2 months completed the assessment in 2012, representing about 28 million 15-year-olds in the schools of the 65 participating countries and economies.
- Paper-based tests were used, with assessments lasting two hours. In a range of countries and economies, an additional 40 minutes were devoted to the computer-based assessment of mathematics, reading and problem solving.
- Test items were a mixture of questions requiring students to construct their own responses and multiple‑choice items. The items were organised in groups based on a passage setting out a real‑life situation. A total of about 390 minutes of test items were covered, with different students taking different combinations of test items.
- Students answered a background questionnaire, which took 30 minutes to complete, that sought information about themselves, their homes and their school and learning experiences. School principals were given a questionnaire, to complete in 30 minutes, that covered the school system and the learning environment. In some countries and economies, optional questionnaires were distributed to parents, who were asked to provide information on their perceptions of and involvement in their child’s school, their support for learning in the home, and their child’s career expectations, particularly in mathematics. Countries could choose two other optional questionnaires for students: one asked students about their familiarity with and use of information and communication technologies, and the second sought information about their education to date, including any interruptions in their schooling and whether and how they are preparing for a future career.