Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA)

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 13th, 2023

 PISA is an international assessment program that measures 15-year-old student’s capabilities in reading, mathematics, and science literacy every three years. It is coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries. It was first conducted in 2000 in which the major domain of study was reading, mathematics, and science in each cycle. It also includes measures for general or cross-curricular competencies such as collaborative problem-solving.

Aim of the test:

  • The aim of the test is not to rank the countries which participate in the evaluation but to give a comprehensive analysis about the working of the education systems on the ground of preparing its students for higher education and subsequent employment.
  • After collecting results from across the world various experts translate these results into data points which are evaluated to score the countries.
  • If a country scores well, it means that not only does it has an effective education system but also an inclusive one in which students from privileged as well as underprivileged backgrounds perform equally well.
  • The test further evaluates whether the education system in these countries teaches students adequate social and community skills, which will enable the students to excel as a member of the workforce.
  • PISA also allow countries to learn from each other about effective education policies and improve their own systems, using others as examples

What makes PISA unique?

  • It is the only international education program to measure the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds students, an age at which students in most countries are nearing the end of their compulsory time in school.
  • It is also unique in the way it looks at:
    • Public policy issues.
    • Literacy.
    • Lifelong learning.

Criticism about PISA:

  • Academicians have expressed their concerns over the impact of PISA rankings. They feel that PISA has contributed to an obsession with standardized testing relying heavily on quantitative measures.
  • USA ‘Race to the Top’ program is often cited as an example in this context as it uses standardized testing for evaluation.
  • PISA has also been criticized for shifting focus from long-term and enduring solutions to temporary measures.
  • Ad-hoc measures are being increasingly adopted by various countries to improve their ranking in PISA.
  • OECD responded that there is no evidence which suggests PISA or any other educational comparison has caused a shift to short-term fixes.
  • According to OECD, it has created opportunities for policy-makers and stakeholders to collaborate across borders.

India’s participation in PISA:

  • India took part in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) only Once way back in 2009 and bagged the 72nd rank among 74 participating countries.
  • After that UPA government boycotted PISA blaming it as “out of context”.
  • In 2016 the HRD Ministry under the NDA government revisited this decision and the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) had set up a committee to review the matter and which submitted its report in December 2016.
  • The report recommended for the participation in the test which was to be held in But India missed the application deadline for the 2018 cycle.

Top performers:

  • In 2012 PISA test China topped in reading, mathematics and science test followed closely by Singapore.
  • In 2015 PISA test Singapore topped followed by Japan and Estonia in that order.

Why PISA was difficult for most of the Indian students?

  • When Indian students face PISA-type questions many of them panic at the first sign of the unfamiliar question and decide that they have not ‘learnt this question type’ and cannot solve it.
  • Low understanding of concepts and even comprehension skills.
  • The mentality of Indian student that questions can be only from the textbook.
  • Most of them have very poor reading skill.

Recent Developments:

  • Indian Govt has already approved an Agreement between India and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for participating in the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA).
  • Now students from Chandigarh will give the test in 2021.
  • Approximately 1.75 lakh students from various government schools in Chandigarh, along with Navodaya Vidyalayas and Kendra Vidyalayas will take the three-hour-long PISA test in 2021. 
  • Union Human Resource Development Minister reviewed preparations for PISA 2021 in January 2019.
  • He instructed all the Deputy Commissioners to work hard to make India successful in this examination.

Way Forward:

  • Each of the above difficulties represents an entrenched, yet solvable problem in our Indian education system.
  • Although there are no quick-fix solutions, yet there are opportunities available to create a change.
  • Changing the pattern of various Board Exam questions along with comprehensive teacher training starting from grade 5 or so can be a game-changer.

Practice Question for Prelims:

Which of the following is not correct regarding PISA?

  1. It is conducted by OECD.
  2. It tests the skills of 15-year-old students.
  3. Students are assessed in literature.
  4. India will participate in PISA in 2021.

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