The Programme for International Student Assessment, or the PISA exam, is given every three years to test 15-year-old students’ performance in mathematics, science, reading, financial literacy and other problem-solving subjects in order to determine the effectiveness of education systems worldwide. The exam was created by education experts around the world and the results provide results for countries to create fairer and more inclusive school systems. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will publish the 2015 results on Dec. 6.
The PISA tests how students explain phenomena scientifically and how they interpret data and evidence scientifically. The exam focuses on content knowledge and knowledge of methodological procedures used in science. Students are tested for their attitudes and interest in science and they’re response to science and technology.
More than half a million 15-year-old students from 72 countries took the two-hour exam. Schools were selected by the OECD from a list of schools provided by each country.
The past results of the PISA exam have shown that U.S. students fall drastically behind students in other countries when testing in mathematics and sciences. In a Pew Research Center Report, only 29% of Americans rated their country’s K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM) as above average or the best in the world.
In the last PISA results, 2013, only 2% of American students reached the highest level of math performance, compared to an average of 3% across other countries, and up to 30% of students in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Chinese Taipei.
Poor educational performance limits access to employment and widens social inequality. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that the results show the United States “has a fixation on testing” that is not seen in other high-performing countries. Perhaps the excessive pressure place on testing is bringing the United States scores down.
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