Table of Contents

  • Equipping citizens with the skills necessary to achieve their full potential, participate in an increasingly interconnected global economy, and ultimately convert better jobs into better lives is a central preoccupation of policy makers around the world. Results from the OECD’s recent Survey of Adult Skills show that highly skilled adults are twice as likely to be employed and almost three times more likely to earn an above-median salary than poorly skilled adults. In other words, poor skills severely limit people’s access to better-paying and more rewarding jobs. Highly skilled people are also more likely to volunteer, see themselves as actors rather than as objects of political processes, and are more likely to trust others. Fairness, integrity and inclusiveness in public policy thus all hinge on the skills of citizens.

  • Students’ engagement with school, the belief that they can achieve at high levels, and their ability and willingness to do what it takes to reach their goals not only play a central role in shaping students’ ability to master academic subjects, they are also valuable attributes that will enable students to lead full lives, meeting challenges and making the most of available opportunities along the way. In other words, much more is required of students – and adults – than just cognitive proficiency.

  • The data referred to in this volume are presented in Annex B and, in greater detail, including some additional tables, on the PISA website (www.pisa.oecd.org).

  • “What is important for citizens to know and be able to do?” That is the question that underlies the triennial survey of 15-year-old students around the world known as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA assesses the extent to which students near the end of compulsory education 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 knowledge; it also examines how well students 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 economies reward individuals not for what they know, but for what they can do with what they know.

  • This chapter introduces the concepts of student engagement, drive and self-belief, without which students are unable to make the most of learning opportunities in school and will not be ready to translate their potential into high-level skills. The chapter discusses the economic and social dynamics shaping the need to prepare students for lifelong learning and describes the structure of the volume.

  • This chapter examines several indicators of student engagement: arriving late for school, skipping days of school or classes, feeling a sense of belonging at school, and holding positive attitudes towards school. The chapter explores how these dispositions are associated with performance in mathematics, whether and how they are related to gender and socio-economic status, and how they have evolved among students since 2003.

  • This chapter explores several indicators related to students’ drive and motivation: perseverance, openness to problem solving, perceived control over success in mathematics and in school, perceived self-responsibility for failing in mathematics and intrinsic and instrumental motivation to learn mathematics. The chapter discusses how these dispositions are associated with performance in mathematics, whether and how they are related to gender and socio-economic status, and how they have evolved among students since 2003.

  • This chapter examines several ways in which students’ beliefs in their own mathematics skills manifest themselves: self-efficacy (the extent to which students believe in their own ability to solve specific mathematics tasks), self-concept (students’ beliefs in their own mathematics abilities), anxiety (feelings of helplessness and stress when dealing with mathematics), students’ engagement in mathematics activities at and outside school, and students’ intentions to pursue mathematics-related studies or careers in the future. These are analysed in relation to mathematics performance, gender and socio-economic status. Trends in students’ mathematics selfbeliefs since 2003 are also examined.

  • This chapter discusses how students’ engagement with and at school, their drive and their self-beliefs are influenced by policies and practices at school. Experience with mathematics problems at school, teachers’ practices, teacher-student relations, and disciplinary climate in the classroom are discussed in relation to students’ dispositions towards learning. The chapter also analyses the effect on these dispositions when students compare their performance to that of other students in the same school, and examines trends in the relationship between students’ engagement, motivation and self-belief and the schools they attend.

  • This chapter explores the different ways in which home environment can contribute to students’ engagement with and at school, their levels of drive and motivation and their beliefs about themselves as mathematics learners. It examines parents’ influence as active participants in their child’s education, both at home and at school, as role models, and as their child’s best champions in the expectations they hold for their child’s future. The association between the home environment and mathematics performance is also discussed.

  • This chapter examines the link between students’ dispositions towards learning mathematics and gender and socio-economic disparities in mathematics performance. It focuses particularly on these differences among students who show similar performance and among the highest-performing students.

  • PISA results show that drive, motivation and confidence in oneself are essential if students are to fulfil their potential; but too many students lack some of these dispositions towards learning that would enable them to flourish. This chapter considers how the education policies of school systems and individual schools are associated with students’ engagement with school, their drive and their self-beliefs.