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Top of the Class

High Performers in Science in PISA 2006

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The rapidly growing demand for highly skilled workers has led to a global competition for talent. While basic competencies are important for the absorption of new technologies, high-level skills are critical for the creation of new knowledge, technologies and innovation. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has taken an innovative approach to examining educational excellence, by directly assessing students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes and exploring how these relate to the characteristics of individual students, schools and education systems. Based on PISA survey results, this report examines who the highest performing students are, what the characteristics of the schools they attend are, to what extent they engage in science related activities outside of school, what their motivations and attitudes towards science are, and what their career intentions are.

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Excellence in Science Performance

The rapidly growing demand for highly skilled workers has led to global competition for talent (OEC D, 2008). While basic competencies are generally considered important for the absorption of new technologies, high-level competencies are critical for the creation of new knowledge, technologies and innovation. For countries near the technology frontier, this implies that the share of highly educated workers in the labour force is an important determinant of economic growth and social development. There is also mounting evidence that individuals with high level skills generate relatively large amounts of knowledge creation and ways of using it, compared to other individuals, which in turn suggests that investing in excellence may benefit all (Minne et al., 2007).1 This happens, for example, because highly skilled individuals create innovations in various areas (for example, organisation, marketing, design) that benefit all or that boost technological progress at the frontier. Research has also shown that the effect of the skill level one standard deviation above the mean in the International Adult Literacy Study on economic growth is about six times larger than the effect of the skill level one standard deviation below the mean (Hanushek and Woessmann, 2007) .

English

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