79 countries and economies had participated in PISA 2018. Students were assessed on their ability in reading, mathematics and sciences.
Below are the main findings :
Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China) and Singapore scored significantly higher in reading than all other countries/ economies that participated in PISA 2018. Estonia, Canada, Finland and Ireland were the highest‑performing OECD countries in reading.
Some 77% of students, on average across OECD countries, attained at least Level 2 proficiency in reading. At a minimum, these students are able to identify the main idea in a text of moderate length, find information based on explicit, though sometimes complex, criteria, and reflect on the purpose and form of texts when explicitly directed to do so. Over 85% of students in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China), Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong (China), Ireland, Macao (China), Poland and Singapore performed at this level or above.
Around 8.7% of students, on average across OECD countries, were top performers in reading, meaning that they attained Level 5 or 6 in the PISA reading test. At these levels, students are able to comprehend lengthy texts, deal with concepts that are abstract or counterintuitive, and establish distinctions between fact and opinion, based on implicit cues pertaining to the content or source of the information. In 20 education systems, including those of 15 OECD countries, over 10% of 15‑year‑old students were top performers.
Mathematics and science
On average across OECD countries, 76% of students attained Level 2 or higher in mathematics. At a minimum, these students can interpret and recognise, without direct instructions, how a (simple) situation can be represented mathematically (e.g. comparing the total distance across two alternative routes, or converting prices into a different currency). However, in 24 countries and economies, more than 50% of students scored below this level of proficiency.
Around one in six 15‑year‑old students in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China) (16.5%), and about one in seven students in Singapore (13.8%), scored at Level 6 in mathematics, the highest level of proficiency that PISA describes. These students are capable of advanced mathematical thinking and reasoning. On average across OECD countries, only 2.4% of students scored at this level.
On average across OECD countries, 78% of students attained Level 2 or higher in science. At a minimum, these students can recognise the correct explanation for familiar scientific phenomena and can use such knowledge to identify, in simple cases, whether a conclusion is valid based on the data provided. More than 90% of students in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China) (97.9%), Macao (China) (94.0%), Estonia (91.2%) and Singapore (91.0%) achieved this benchmark.
Trends in performance
On average across OECD countries, mean performance in reading, mathematics and science remained stable between 2015 and 2018.
There were large differences between individual countries and economies in how their performance changed between 2015 and 2018. For example, mean performance in mathematics improved in 13 countries/economies (Albania, Iceland, Jordan, Latvia, Macao [China], Montenegro, Peru, Poland, Qatar, the Republic of North Macedonia, the Slovak Republic, Turkey and the United Kingdom), declined in 3 countries/economies (Malta, Romania and Chinese Taipei), and remained stable in the remaining 47 participating countries/economies.
Seven countries/economies saw improvements, on average, in the reading, mathematics and science performance of their students throughout their participation in PISA: Albania, Colombia, Macao (China), the Republic of Moldova, Peru, Portugal and Qatar. Seven countries saw declining mean performance across all three subjects: Australia, Finland, Iceland, Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the Slovak Republic.
Between 2003 and 2018, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey and Uruguay enrolled many more 15‑year‑olds in secondary education without sacrificing the quality of the education provided.
[Source: 2018 PISA results]