PISA 2009 at a Glance

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07 déc 2010
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PISA 2009 at a Glance is a companion publication to PISA 2009 Results, the six-volume report on the 2009 survey conducted by the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA assesses the extent to which students near the end of compulsory education have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. Its triennial assessments of 15-year-olds focus on reading, mathematics and science.

PISA 2009 at a Glance provides easily accessible data on the some of the main issues analysed in the full report:

  • What students know and can do: How do students compare in the knowledge and skills they show at school? Which countries are the best performers? Which perform poorly?
  • Overcoming social background: Does a student’s socio-economic background affect his or her performance in school?
  • Learning to learn: Are there some types of reading, and some ways of learning, that are better for students than others?
  • What makes a school successful?: What traits do high-performing schools have in common?

Each issue is presented on a two-page spread. The left-hand page explains what the issue means both for students and for participating countries and economies, discusses the main findings and provides readers with a roadmap for finding out more in other OECD publications and databases. The right-hand page contains clearly presented charts and tables, accompanied by dynamic hyperlinks (StatLinks) that direct readers to the corresponding data in Excel™ format.

PISA 2009 at a Glance is an ideal introduction to PISA and to the OECD’s rich trove of internationally comparable data on education and learning.

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  • Foreword
    PISA 2009 at a Glance offers a reader-friendly introduction to five of the six volumes of PISA 2009 Results. PISA, the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, evaluates the quality, equity and efficiency of school systems in some 70 countries that, together, make up nine-tenths of the world economy. PISA represents a commitment by governments to regularly monitor the outcomes of education systems within an internationally agreed framework. It also provides a basis for international collaboration in defining and implementing educational goals in innovative ways that reflect judgements about the skills that are relevant to adult life.
  • Reader's Guide
    The tables of data on which the figures in this publication are based can be found in the individual volumes of PISA 2009 Results as indicated and, in greater detail, on the PISA website (www.pisa.oecd.org).
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  • Ouvrir / Fermer Cacher / Voir les résumés What Students Know and Can Do

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    • What can students do in reading?
      Students who do not attain the PISA baseline proficiency Level 2 in reading lack the essential skills needed to participate effectively and productively in society. A key priority for all countries is to ensure that as many students as possible attain at least Level 2. At the other end of the performance range, countries can gain competitive advantage in the knowledge economy by educating their students to handle complex reading tasks at Levels 5 and 6.
    • How do countries/economies perform in reading overall?
      The mean PISA reading score for each country/economy summarises the performance of students overall. These scores show that reading standards vary greatly among countries and economies in ways that cannot simply be attributed to the countries’ different stages of economic development. A nation’s wealth influences educational success; but GDP per capita now explains only 6% of the differences between countries’ average student performance. The other 94% of diffe-rences reflect the fact that two countries of similar prosperity can produce very different educational results.
    • How do girls compare to boys in reading skills?
      Lower reading proficiency among boys has become a major concern in many education systems. Closing the gender gap will help to improve reading performance overall.
    • What can students do in mathematics?
      Students whose proficiency in mathematics is limited to Level 1a or below can, at best, perform simple mathematical tasks in very familiar contexts. They will find it difficult to think mathematically, limiting their ability to make sense of a complex world. A priority for all countries is to ensure that as many students as possible attain at least the baseline proficiency Level 2. At the other end of the performance range, having a corps of students capable of the complex mathematical thinking required at Levels 5 and 6 will help countries to establish a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.
    • How do countries/economies perform in mathematics overall?
      The mean PISA mathematics score for each country/ economy summarises the performance of students overall. The results show a much wider range of scores in mathematics than in reading among countries and economies. Of the three subjects assessed by PISA, reading, mathematics and science, mathematics is the one where high-performing East Asian countries and economies show the largest advantage over all other countries that participated in PISA 2009.
    • How do girls compare to boys in mathematics skills?
      Mathematics is an important life skill, and the stereotyped notion that girls are “not good at numbers” has often limited girls’ opportunities. But PISA results show that, in some countries, girls perform as well as boys in mathematics. That can be a signal to policy makers that skills in mathematics are not related to gender and that more can be done to raise girls’ level of performance in mathematics.
    • What can students do in science?
      Students whose proficiency in science is limited to Level 1 will find it difficult to participate fully in society at a time when science and technology play a large role in daily life. Those students capable of the advanced scientific thinking required at Levels 5 and 6 could become part of a corps of future innovators who will boost their countries’ technological and innovative capacities in science-related industries.
    • How do countries/economies perform in science overall?
      The mean PISA science score for each country/economy summarises the performance of students overall. The results show that overall science performance varies widely across countries and economies. In a world where science plays an important part in daily life, countries strive to ensure that their populations attain at least a baseline level of proficiency in science. To be able to compete in the global marketplace, countries must also develop a corps of people capable of complex and innovative scientific thinking.
    • How do girls compare to boys in science?
      Reaching a basic understanding of scientific principles is now essential for both boys and girls if they want to participate fully in society. Despite the prevalence of stereotyping to the contrary, PISA results show that being proficient in science is not linked to one gender or the other.
    • How many students are top performers?
      The rapidly growing demand for highly skilled workers has led to a global competition for talent. High-level skills are critical for creating new technologies and innovation. Looking at the top-performing students in reading, mathematics and science allows countries to estimate their future talent pool, and to consider ways of improving it.
    • Performance in reading since 2000
      In the past decade, most countries have substantially increased their investment in education. PISA helps to monitor whether outcomes are improving as a result. In 2009, PISA focused on reading for the first time since the original PISA survey in 2000. This allows for a comparison of how student performance has evolved over the past decade.
    • Changes in reading scores since 2000
      Nearly a decade after the first PISA survey, countries can see not just whether they have raised standards overall, but also whether they have succeeded in raising performance among various groups.
    • Reading scores among low-performing students
      Particularly in countries where only a minority of students is able to read beyond a basic level, improving performance among low achievers contributes significantly to raising the overall standard. In OECD countries, where the great majority of students reaches at least proficiency Level 2, the challenge is to limit the number of students who do not. In some of these countries, immigration and other changes that affect the socio-economic profile of the student population can make the task more difficult.
    • Reading scores among high-performing students
      The 8% of students capable of performing complex reading tasks at Level 5 or 6 will be at the forefront of a competitive, knowledge-based world economy. Some countries have very few students at these levels, and will need to improve the performance of their best students in order to enhance competitive capacity.
    • Girls' and boys' reading performance since 2000
      With boys lagging behind in reading performance, one way to improve overall results is to get boys more interested and engaged in reading. In the short term, this may require paying more attention to the reading preferences of boys who, for example, show relatively strong interest in reading newspapers and reading on line, rather than aiming for a single model of reading engagement. In the long run, tackling the gender gap in reading performance will require the concerted effort of parents, teachers and society at large to change the stereotypical notions of what boys and girls excel in and what they enjoy doing.
    • Performance in mathematics since 2003
      Even countries that show improvements in mathematics performance can still perform below the OECD average, while those that show a decline in performance can continue to outperform others. While changes in mean mathematics scores describe overall trends, these data can mask changes among the lowest- and the highest-achieving students.
    • Performance in science since 2006
      An understanding of science and technology is central to students’ preparedness for life in modern society. It enables them to participate fully in a society in which science and technology play a significant role. PISA results tracked over a period of years show whether school systems are becoming more successful in helping students attain that understanding.
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  • Ouvrir / Fermer Cacher / Voir les résumés Overcoming Social Background

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    • Does socio-economic background affect reading performance?
      In trying to provide students with equitable learning opportunities, education systems aim to reduce the extent to which a student’s socio-economic background affects his or her performance in school. Performance differences that are related to student background are evident in every country. But PISA results show that some countries have been more successful than others in mitigating the impact of socio-economic background on students’ performance in reading.
    • Can disadvantaged students defy the odds against them?
      Despite a strong association between socio-economic background and reading performance, many students from disadvantaged backgrounds defy predictions and perform well. Thus educators should not assume that someone from a disadvantaged background is incapable of high achievement.
    • How do students from single-parent families perform in reading?
      Across the OECD area, 17% of the students who participated in PISA 2009 are from single-parent families. In general, the parents of these students have lower educational qualifications and lower occupational status than parents on average across OECD countries. But PISA results show that theses disadvantages do not necessarily translate into lower performance among children from single-parent households. These findings prompt the question of whether public policy, including policies on welfare and childcare as well as on education, can help to make it easier for single parents to support their children’s education.
    • How do students with an immigrant background perform in reading?
      Students with an immigrant background who speak a different language at home than the one in which the PISA assessment was conducted face considerable challenges in reading and other aspects of education. In general, they tend to show lower levels of performance even after their socio-economic background is taken into account. However, the gaps in performance vary greatly and, in some countries, students from an immigrant background perform just as well as their non-immigrant peers.
    • Does where a student lives affect his or her reading performance?
      In some countries, the size or location of the community in which a school is located is strongly related to student performance. In large communities or densely populated areas, more educational resources may be available for students. Isolated communities might need targeted support or specific educational policies to ensure that students attending schools in these areas reach their full potential.
    • How equitably are school resources distributed?
      A major challenge in many countries is to ensure that resources for education are equitably distributed. This can mean devoting more resources to schools attended by students from less advantaged backgrounds. However, in some cases, it is the more advantaged schools that end up with superior human and material resources, both in quality and quantity.
    • Socio-economic background and reading performance
      A major priority of education systems is to offer equitable learning opportunities, and ultimately realise equitable learning outcomes, regardless of students’ socio-economic backgrounds. Nine years may be considered a relatively short time in which to weaken the relationship between student background and reading performance, yet PISA results show that some countries have succeeded in doing just that.
    • Relative performance of students from immigrant backgrounds
      The immigrant population of many OECD countries is growing. In countries with comparable data, the proportion of 15-year-olds with an immigrant background increased by two percentage points, on average, between 2000 and 2009, although in some countries the proportion decreased. Learning outcomes among students from an immigrant background are thus the subject of some scrutiny among education policy makers, particularly in countries where these students show significantly poorer performance in school than their peers who do not come from immigrant backgrounds.
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  • Ouvrir / Fermer Cacher / Voir les résumés Learning to Learn

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    • Are students who enjoy reading better readers?
      Students who enjoy reading, and therefore make it a regular part of their lives, are able to build their reading skills through practice. PISA shows strong associations between reading enjoyment and performance. This does not mean that results show that enjoyment of reading has a direct impact on reading scores; rather, the finding is consistent with research showing that such enjoyment is an important precondition for becoming an effective reader. Therefore, to bolster reading performance, schools can both instruct students in reading techniques and foster an interest in reading.
    • What kinds of reading are associated with being a good reader?
      Students who read widely for pleasure have a better chance to build and enhance their reading skills. While the strongest readers are those who read fiction, in practice many students show a preference for other forms of reading that have more direct relevance to their daily lives. Encouraging the reading of diverse materials, such as magazines, newspapers and nonfiction, can help to make reading a habit, especially for some weaker readers who might not be inclined to read a work of fiction.
    • Do boys and girls have different reading habits?
      The fact that girls outperform boys in reading is associated with girls’ greater enjoyment of reading. Policy makers in countries where this gap is particularly pronounced should consider including measures to improve students’ engagement in reading in any strategy to raise reading proficiency levels. With PISA results showing that boys have different reading habits than girls, policy makers should take into account boys’ preference for reading different types of material when trying to raise their interest in and enjoyment of reading.
    • What learning strategies help students perform better?
      PISA measures the extent to which students adopt certain strategies for reading and learning, and how aware they are of which strategies work best. The results support research showing that by consciously adopting effective learning strategies, students will learn more effectively than if they just follow teachers’ instructions. This underlines the importance for parents, teachers and schools to provide students with the tools to become effective readers and learners.
    • Reading for enjoyment
      Reading for enjoyment is an important part of the engagement in reading that helps students perfect their reading skills. PISA results show that, in all countries, students who enjoy reading the most perform significantly better than students who enjoy reading the least. While the majority of students do read for enjoyment, the growth in the minority who do not should prompt schools to try to engage students in reading activities that they find relevant and interesting.
    • Reading for enjoyment, by gender and background
      The gender gap in enjoyment of reading helps to explain why girls continue to outperform boys significantly in reading. It is also worrying that the impact of socio-economic background on reading for enjoyment, which had been relatively weak in 2000, is growing stronger. These trends highlight the particular urgency of finding ways to engage boys from disadvantaged backgrounds in reading for pleasure.
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  • Ouvrir / Fermer Cacher / Voir les résumés What Makes a School Successful?

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    • Does selecting and grouping students affect reading performance?
      By measuring aspects of student selection and grouping across 34 OECD countries, PISA can show the general relationship between these policies and student performance in reading. The results show that some types of differentiation among students tend to be associated with lower levels of performance and less equity among students from different socio-economic backgrounds. Countries using such practices need to ensure that they do not result in inequities in learning opportunities linked to students’ socio-economic backgrounds.
    • How do education systems and schools select and group students?
      Education systems today face a major challenge in delivering equal chances to diverse student populations. Some choose to do so by educating all children together, others by differentiating between groups of students.
    • Does school governance affect students' reading performance?
      Since the early 1980s, educational reforms in many countries have intended to improve the quality of instruction in schools by offering a greater diversity of courses and greater autonomy for schools to respond to local needs, allowing schools to compete for enrolment and providing more choice for parents. PISA results suggest that some features of autonomy and accountability are associated with better performance. Yet some of the assumptions underlying school competition and choice have been called into question. It is unclear, for example, whether parents have the necessary information to choose the best schools for their children. It is also unclear whether parents always give sufficient priority to the quality of the school when making these choices. And school choice may also lead to the unintended racial, ethnic or socioeconomic segregation of schools. Autonomy, evaluation, governance and choice can be combined in many ways, with varying effects on student performance.
    • How are schools governed in different countries?
      Countries that have devolved authority over curricula and assessments to individual schools tend to perform well in PISA. However, while the general trend has been towards greater autonomy, countries have taken different paths in how, and the extent to which, they devolve power to schools and create more competition among schools by allowing greater choice for parents and students. This analysis considers these differences by dividing countries into groups with similar combinations of characteristics.
    • How do countries/economies allocate educational resources?
      School systems need to balance the need for adequate levels of resources with other demands on public spending. Systems vary in how they spend their resources, from buying textbooks to lengthening the school year to improving the physical structure of schools to providing more extracurricular activities for students. However, most extra spending is directed either towards higher teachers’ salaries or smaller class size. PISA results show teachers’ salaries to be an important factor linked to student performance among those examined.
    • Do students perform better in more disciplined schools?
      Educational policies and practices can only be effective if they are implemented in a climate conducive to learning. PISA results show which aspects of the learning environment are strongly related to better student performance.
    • How favourable is the learning climate in schools?
      Research into what makes schools effective finds that learning requires an orderly and co-operative environment, both in and outside the classroom. PISA results show that students who reported having good relations with teachers and a strong disciplinary climate in the classroom tend to perform better in reading.
    • Teacher-student relations
      Positive student-teacher relationships are crucial for establishing a classroom environment that is conducive to learning. Research finds that students, particularly socio-economically disadvantaged students, learn more and have fewer disciplinary problems when they feel that their teachers take them seriously. While the media sometimes depicts the climate in schools as becoming more difficult, PISA results show that relations between teachers and students have become more positive, and offer no evidence to support the notion that students are becoming progressively more disengaged from school.
    • Disciplinary climate during lessons
      Classrooms and schools with more disciplinary problems are less conducive to learning, since teachers have to spend more time creating an orderly environment before instruction can begin. Interruptions in the classroom disrupt students’ concentration on, and their engagement in, their lessons.
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