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But how would he do on PISA?

2 December 2013
by Brian Keeley
Here's the other one

Here’s the other one

We couldn’t resist this video by Aria Shahrokhshahi, a young British lad who’s been struggling with his sums.

“One year before this video I was at a grade F in maths,” Aria explained. “In England you need a C (pass) to basically do anything with your life. […] Neither me or my dad or my teachers thought I was going to get my C.”

But, as the video shows, Aria surprised everyone – especially his dad – by getting that C.

Soon, it won’t just be Mr Shahrokhshahi who’s getting excited about mathematics scores. For on Tuesday the OECD will release the latest round of results from its PISA programme of international student assessments, or, as the BBC calls it, “the world’s most important exam”.

This latest release of PISA results covers the most recent round of the three-yearly assessments, which took place in 2012. As usual, it covered three main topics – mathematics, reading and science. Also as usual, it placed a special focus on just one of these subjects – in 2012, it was mathematics. In total, more than half a million 15-year-old students took part in the assessments, representing 64 countries and economies.

So, what to watch out for this week? Given the media deluge that typically follows a new PISA release, it might be easier to talk about what you shouldn’t watch out for. Chief among these, perhaps, are the famous league tables, which “rank” the performances of students in each participating country and economy. These tend to receive the lion’s share of coverage, with lots of excitable talk about how one country’s students are three places higher than another’s. How does the OECD itself feel about these tables? “We don’t attach that much importance to them,” PISA’s Andreas Schleicher told The Guardian last week, “but people want to see comparisons.”

Of more interest, perhaps, is the broader picture of whether each country is above, around or below the average and whether its performance is improving or declining. And, of course, there will be usual data and analysis on a whole range of other issues that PISA investigates, such as how students from poorer families do compared to better-off kids, how girls do compared to boys and the importance of students’ attitudes.

If you want to follow the PISA launch, coverage begins at the PISA website tomorrow (3 Dec.) at 1000 GMT (that’s 5am in New York, 10am in London, 11am in Berlin and Paris and 7pm in Tokyo). If you’re following on Twitter, the hashtag is #OECDPISA. Later on Tuesday, you can join a “webinar” with Andreas Schleicher. You might also like to go along to PISA Day, a special website created by the Alliance for Excellent Education and partners. And, if you’re a parent, there’s a Facebook page that might interest you –

Useful links

OECD work on education

OECD educationtoday blog

One Response leave one →
  1. December 2, 2013

    Hmmm! I think I agree with OECD in this. We are “told” that people want to see comparisons.
    But is this really true, apart from a small percentage of people who get off on statistics?
    Most people, I suspect, would be more interested in the things that statistics hide or more correctly, don’t include.

    Statistics, whether they be sales figures, sports details or educational achievements, are only as good as the quality control of the data input.

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