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PISA

Why we should invest in getting more kids to read — and how to do it

Harry A. Patrinos's picture
Data shows that huge swaths of populations in developing countries are not learning to read. Scaling up early reading interventions will be a first step toward addressing these high illiteracy rates.
Data shows that huge swaths of populations in developing countries are not learning to read. Scaling up early reading interventions will be a first step toward addressing these high illiteracy rates. (Photo: Liang Qiang / World Bank)


It is estimated that more than 250 million school children throughout the world cannot read. This is unfortunate because literacy has enormous benefits – both for the individual and society. Higher literacy rates are associated with healthier populations, less crime, greater economic growth, and higher employment rates. For a person, literacy is a foundational skill required to acquire advanced skills. These, in turn, confer higher wages and more employment across labor markets .

A mixed report: How Europe and Central Asian Countries performed in PISA

Cristian Aedo's picture
 Aigul Eshtaeva / World Bank
While more ECA program countries are participating in the PISA assessment of 15-year-old students' skills, education poverty in these countries has only slightly declined since 2000. (Photo: Aigul Eshtaeva / World Bank)

Recently, the OECD released the results for PISA 2015, an international assessment that measures the skills of 15-year-old students in applying their knowledge of science, reading, and mathematics to real-life problems. There is a sense of urgency to ensure that students have solid skills amidst modest economic growth and long-term demographic decline in Europe and Central Asia (ECA).

Non-cognitive skills: What are they and why should we care?

Raja Bentaouet Kattan's picture
 Trinn Suwannapha / World Bank)
With trends such as automation causing fundamental shifts in the labor market, research is increasingly looking at the value of non-cognitive skills or socioemotional skills. (Photo: Trinn Suwannapha / World Bank)


Over the past few decades, cheap and low-skilled labor has provided many countries — including much of East Asia — with a competitive advantage.  However, with economies increasingly turning to automation, cheap labor and low skills will no longer guarantee economic growth or even jobs. 

Are girls smarter than boys?

Malek Abu-Jawdeh's picture

Parents are 2.5 times more likely to google “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?” A gap like this—in perceptions and expectations—is not new.  Myths about ‘gendered’ learning gaps have persisted since at least the Victorian era. Could these be true?


 

How do we achieve sustained growth? Through human capital, and East Asia and the Pacific proves it

Michael Crawford's picture
Students at Beijing Bayi High School in China. Photo: World Bank


In 1950, the average working-age person in the world had  almost three years of education, but in East Asia and Pacific (EAP), the  average person had less than half that amount. Around this time, countries in  the EAP  region put themselves on a path that focused on growth  driven by human capital. They made significant and steady investments in  schooling to close the educational attainment gap with the rest of the world. While  improving their school systems, they also put their human capital to work in  labor markets. As a result, economic growth has been stellar: for four decades  EAP has grown at roughly twice the pace of the global average. What is more, no  slowdown is in sight for rising prosperity.

High economic growth and strong human capital accumulation  are deeply intertwined. In a recent paper, Daron Acemoglu and David Autor explore  the way skills and labor markets interact: Human capital is the central  determinant of economic growth and is the main—and very likely the only—means  to achieve shared growth when technology is changing quickly and raising the  demand for skills. Skills promote productivity and growth, but if there are not  enough skilled workers, growth soon chokes off. If, by contrast, skills are abundant and  average skill-levels keep rising, technological change can drive productivity  and growth without stoking inequality.

Education and economic development: Five reforms that have worked

Harry A. Patrinos's picture
Education systems are simply not performing as needed; not as economies demand, and not as parents desire. Yet it’s important to celebrate and recognize the success of countries that have made significant advances. (Photo: Sofie Tesson / Taimani Films / World Bank)

Every sector is reforming to meet the changing demands of the global economy. Except one. Education remains a predominantly public service.  This is fine except that it means that this is also mainly publicly-provided, publicly-financed, and regulated. No public service agency is expected to do as much as we expect of education. How are education systems around the world faring?

Why students in Moldova are performing better

Lucia Casap's picture

 

Following years of investment in the education sector, Moldova has made a major leap in student performance. Photo: Jutta Benzenberg / World Bank


"If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want a decade of prosperity, plant trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, invest in people."
Chinese proverb


Every person needs and deserves quality education. But what does quality education mean? Even for countries which have affirmed their status as “quality education service providers,” there are arguments supporting or refuting education service quality. For developing countries, the challenge is even greater ¾ limited resources, major needs, and lack of experience are common problems faced by decision-makers in education. Various methods are used globally to compare the quality of education system—one of which is the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Testing, testing: How Kosovo fared in its first international assessment of students

Flora Kelmendi's picture
Results of PISA 2015 reveal a wide performance gap between Kosovar students and their peers in the region.
Photo: Jutta Benzenberg / World Bank



A few weeks ago, education policy makers and data analysts around the world were glued to their laptops when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published the results of PISA 2015. More than half a million students – from 72 countries and economies representing 28 million 15 year-olds – had taken the test. PISA, an international assessment administered every three years, measures the skills of students in applying their knowledge of science, reading, and mathematics to real life problems.  PISA is one of the most influential international student assessments, which provides a rich set of information on the systems strengths and weaknesses, supports development of effective policies – and at the same time, benchmarks country's achievements vis a vis other participating countries.

Providing better education for children in Thailand’s small schools

Lars Sondergaard's picture



During a recent trip to Udon Thani, we visited several small schools in the outskirts of the city. In several ways, these small schools were typical of Thailand’s 15,000 schools with less than 120 students.
 
In past decades, the schools had nearly three times as many students but, over time, their enrollment numbers had gradually fallen as a result of shrinking birth numbers; and with better roads that allowed some families to place their children in better schools located in Udon Thani city itself.  
 
Several other schools were located in their close vicinity. In fact, a total of seven schools – many of which had also shrunk into small schools – were now located within a 3-kilometer radius.
 
The schools struggled to provide quality education for their students because they had a hard time attracting and retaining qualified teachers. During our visit, the principal of one of the schools explained that the school had no qualified English language teacher and that many of their teachers were recent, and mostly inexperienced university graduates. The principal feared that many of these new teachers would only stay at the school for a short while before seeking to move to Udon Thani city or another urban area, and to teach at a city school.

Which region in the world has the smartest kids? According to the OECD, it’s East Asia

Harry A. Patrinos's picture
Students from Tran Dai Nghia High School near Can Tho, Vietnam (Photo: D7K_4030 by makzhou, used under CC BY-NC 4.0 / cropped from original)


With the release last month of the latest PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) results by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), it is apparent that many of the highest achieving students in the world are in East Asia.
 
Just as in the recently released TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) results, Singapore leads the world in every subject in PISA, outperforming other economies and countries by a significant margin. Students in Singapore perform at a level that is up to two years ahead of their regional and OECD counterparts in science, mathematics and reading. Moreover, almost all Singaporean students have reached a basic level of proficiency or higher. And they just keep getting better, having significantly reduced performance below basic proficiency.
 
Japan also outperforms most participating economies in science, mathematics and reading. However, its score in reading has declined since the last round. Still, as in Singapore, 90% of students have reached a basic level of proficiency or above.


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