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5 things we learned from the PISA rankings for Ireland

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey by the OECD. The results from the 2015 round of testing were released today. PISA tests 15 year olds from 72 countries on Science, Literacy and Mathematics.

The PISA testing takes a holistic approach to these subjects, grading students not on rote-learned facts but testing their problem-solving ability acquired through a broad spectrum of learning so as to determine how prepared they are for their future studies or working environment. The test is on skills not knowledge. Solving “real world problems” and creative thinking are major components and many of the questions focus on how students feel about school and studying. This time around, PISA has placed a greater emphasis on Science. It poses questions relevant to today’s world. Can our young people be scientific in the application of their knowledge? Do they weigh up all arguments and use critical and logical thinking to solve problems?

We now live in globalised societies, with a mobile workforce moving wherever particular skills are required. We can see this in our own country where in the last generation huge emphasis was placed on attracting some of the tech giants to establish headquarters here. We can use the PISA testing as an important yardstick with which to objectively measure our standard of education against international standards and, in turn, help to establish our future graduates in higher education and the jobs market.

Looking at the last two sets of results from 2012 and 2015, what are 5 things that we can learn from today’s release?

  • In 2012, Ireland scored 523 points in reading while the international average is 496, putting our ranking in that area at 13th;
  • In the results released today and based on the 2015 test, Ireland has jumped dramatically to 5th place in reading;
  • With only Finland (ranked fourth) ahead of us for reading in Europe, our teaching and learning of literacy is an area where we excel;
  • This year Ireland stayed above the OECD and European averages in all subjects;
  • In Science we’ve dropped slightly since 2012 and now hold a ranking of 19th out of the 72 countries tested.

And, so, while it is heartening to see Ireland’s scores in all three areas above the OECD average, it is also important to remember that there are many variables to PISA testing and the granularity of the results are intricate. PISA maps each result not just by score in each area but breaks down these results in terms of gender disparity, attendance record, happiness in school, etc. To look at all of this in detail and map Ireland’s results check out the PISA website.