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Pisa 2009 at a Glance
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branch What Students Know and Can Do - Trends
  branch Reading scores among high-performing students
  • In Japan, Korea and the partner economy Hong Kong, China, the percentage of top performers in reading rose to among the highest in PISA by 2009, having been only at or below the OECD average in 2000.
  • The biggest changes in the proportion of top performers in reading are seen in Korea and Israel, which doubled that proportion, and in Ireland, where it halved.

What it means

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.

Findings

The proportion of top performers in reading, proficient at Level 5 or above, rose significantly in six countries but fell in ten others between 2000 and 2009.

Three of the four countries that showed the greatest increase in top performers during this period now have among the highest percentage of these students in the world. In 2000, Japan and the partner economy Hong Kong, China had only about the OECD average of 9% of students reading at Level 5 or above; Korea was well below this average, with 6% of top performers. By 2009, between 12% and 13% of students in all these countries were top performers. Korea more than -doubled the percentage of top performers in reading in nine years.

Israel also nearly doubled the percentage of top performers in reading, to 7%. While this is close to the OECD average, it is a greater proportion than that found in the other countries whose average reading scores are similar to Israel's.

In the five countries that had the highest proportion of top performers in reading in 2000, this proportion shrunk significantly by 2009. Most notably, the percentage in Ireland halved from 14% to 7%, now close to the OECD average. In Australia, Canada, Finland and New Zealand, far above the average proportion of students performed at Level 5 or 6 in 2000, but this proportion was reduced by between three and five percentage points in 2009. These countries still had well above the average proportion of top performers in 2009, but their advantage over other countries had narrowed.

In Denmark, the proportion of top performers fell sharply from 8% to below 5% during the period. Unusually, Denmark saw a fall in the number of both top and low performers, with more students perfor-ming at middle levels of reading proficiency. In Norway, the proportion of top performers decreased by three percentage points, to the average level.

In Romania, the proportion of top performers fell from an already low level of 2% in 2000 to less than 1% in 2009.

Definitions

Students are defined as top performers if they are -proficient to at least Level 5 on the seven-level reading proficiency scale. The countries involved in this comparison are only those that have comparable results in both the 2000 and the 2009 PISA reading survey. Changes in the percentage of low-performing students are only reported if they are statistically -significant. They are expressed as "percentage point changes" , such that a rise from 5% to 10% is a five -percentage point change, even though the proportion has doubled.

Information on data for Israel: Statlink StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888932315602 .

Going further

Further analysis of changes in top performance in reading between 2000 and 2009 is presented in Chapter 2 of PISA 2009 Results Volume V, Learning Trends: Changes in Student Performance Since 2000. Full data are shown in Table V.2.2 at the back of that volume.

 
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Figure
1.14 Percentage of top performers in reading in 2000 and 2009
Percentage of top performers in reading in 2000 and 2009