1996-3777 (online)
1990-8539 (print)
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A series of reports on the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment’s (PISA) periodic testing program on student performance. The reports generally compare student (15 year olds) academic performance across countries, or discuss the methodology used to gather the data.

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Learning beyond Fifteen

Learning beyond Fifteen

Ten Years after PISA You or your institution have access to this content

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04 Apr 2012
9789264172104 (PDF) ;9789264172043(print)

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This report focuses on the development of reading proficiency during the transition from adolescence to early adulthood. The span of time between the ages of 15 and 24 is a critical period of development for young people. Once compulsory education is completed, individual decisions about post-secondary education, employment and other life choices have to be made with major consequences for future learning and employment outcomes. A good foundation in reading proficiency facilitates success in specialised education during higher education or during job-related training. Since reading proficiency is not the goal of such specialised or professional learning, reading skills may begin to atrophy. So both learning gains and losses need to be considered as human capital is developed.  

Canada’s investments in PISA, as well as in longitudinal data and reassessment of reading proficiency, provides insights into the importance of individual reading proficiency and later outcomes, such as educational attainment, further learning, employment and earnings. Therefore, this report makes a vital contribution to the understanding of learning gains between the ages of 15 and 24 and their impact on such outcomes, and provides a basis for evidence-based policy and strategic investments by the community of countries participating in PISA

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  • Foreword
    With the increasing importance of skills for economic and social prosperity, direct measures of human capital are necessary to understand how various skills develop over time, and how they contribute to social and economic growth. Thus, PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment) and PIAAC (the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies), two of the most comprehensive OECD international assessments of skills, along with other national and regional assessments, are crucial for taking stock of a nation’s human capital and for aligning policy goals to the needs of society. International comparisons provide a good indication of progress achieved and the challenges ahead.
  • Executive Summary
    The growing need for internationally comparable evidence on student performance in compulsory education prompted over 70 governments to invest in the PISA assessment in 2009. In addition, six countries–Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Switzerland and Uruguay–have chosen to use the PISA assessment as a starting point for a longitudinal survey of youth.
  • Introduction
    The development of reading proficiency is a dynamic process that involves gains and losses. Whereas gains at early ages depend on initial reading proficiency, gains and losses at later ages are affected by whether or not individuals engage in activities to maintain their skills. The value of such research for addressing internationally shared policy concerns is high. This chapter introduces the key concepts examined in this report.
  • PISA-15, YITS, PISA-24, and the Canadian Context
    This chapter describes the three data sources used to explore learning gains and gives an overview of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in Canada and the linked longitudinal Youth in Transition Survey (YITS). It also provides a detailed description of PISA-24 and related data-quality issues, and a concise review of Canada’s education systems.
  • Reading Proficiency of Canadian Youth at Ages 15 and 24
    PISA-24 revealed important growth in reading skills between the ages of 15 and 24 among all individuals assessed. For example, the number of young people with scores below PISA proficiency Level 3 – a key measure of success in PISA – dropped from 21% in 2000 to 7% in 2009. However, the rate at which young people acquire skills varies considerably. Differences in performance are related to certain student characteristics that do not change over time. Though performance gaps persist, they narrowed over the nine years.
  • Growth in Reading Proficiency over Time
    This chapter examines improvements in reading proficiency observed between the ages of 15 and 24 and determines whether they meet, exceed or fall short of expectations. For example, PISA-15 and PISA-24 show that approximately 59 score points were gained annually while students remained in formal education, but that the level of reading proficiency at age 24 was lower than that estimated for students at the end of compulsory education. This suggests that skills gains do not continue at the same annual rate as measured in 2000 when students were 15. Skills acquisition in PISA-24 is then analysed within the PISA reading framework.
  • Proficiency Growth before and after Age 15
    A defining feature of proficiency growth after the age of 15 is that high performers did not acquire skills as fast as low performers and, as a result, some groups of students who had performed poorly at the age of 15 were able to close some of the gap in reading skills by the age of 24. This chapter provides further evidence of proficiency convergence by examining how family and school environments are related to reading proficiency at age 15 and to skills growth between the ages of 15 and 24. One important finding is that individuals who are more inclined to selfdirected learning do not do as well in the highly structured environments often found in compulsory education, but they appear to thrive in environments that allow for greater autonomy.
  • The Effect of Education and Work Pathways on Reading Proficiency
    This chapter discusses the paths young people choose towards entering further education or the labour force and their relation to skills and skills gains. Those who completed university education tended to have high PISA scores when they were 15 and they continued to have a considerable advantage at age 24 over those who did not follow this pathway. However, young people whose highest educational attainment was high school still acquired reading skills after the age of 15 – and these skills were acquired at similar or faster rates than those acquired by university-educated young adults. Meanwhile, work experience appears to play only a minor role in learning gains after the age of 15. Other life transitions, like moving out of the parental home and marriage, are also examined. The role of active self-determination appears to be a critical factor for explaining differences in skills gains across these life transitions.
  • Conclusion
    The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) measures the extent to which 15-year-olds near the end of compulsory education have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. This triennial survey focuses on student performance in reading, mathematics and science.
  • References
  • Technical Annex
    The PISA-24 sample is a representative sample of Canadian youth who were 15 years old in 2000. To ensure that the sample remains representative, the original PISA-15 sample weights applied to the data have to be modified to take into account attrition within YITS and the fact that only a sub-sample of YITS participants took part in the PISA-24 test.
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