Education performance has largely stagnated in many Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries over the past two decades, despite greater spending, the group said yesterday in report on a survey of international learning standards.
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is carried out every three years by the Paris-based OECD, this time among its 37 member states and 42 partner countries and economies.
The PISA survey did not spell out the reasons for the lack of improvement, but in the past the OECD has suggested that improving teacher performance is more important to the quality of learning than other factors like spending more to reduce class sizes.
Students’ average performance in reading, mathematics and science was largely stable in OECD countries last year, according to the results of the global test.
The Paris-based policy’s forum said it was “disappointing” that there had been practically no improvement in OECD countries’ performance since it started the PISA project in 2000.
It was all the more galling as per student spending in OECD member countries had risen more than 15 percent over the past decade, the report said.
About 600,000 15-year-olds in 79 countries and economies took the two-hour test for the latest study, which is closely watched by policymakers as the largest international comparison of education performance.
As OECD countries stagnated, students from areas surveyed in non-OECD member China — Beijing and Shanghai, as well as Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces — and in Singapore once again outperformed peers from all other countries in reading, mathematics and science.
Out of the 79 countries and territories, only Albania, Colombia, Macau, Moldova, Peru, Portugal and Qatar had seen an improvement in their scores since joining in program, and only Portugal is a member of the OECD.
While important, funding was not everything, as demonstrated by the case of Estonia, which was the top-scoring OECD country in reading, despite education spending 30 percent less than the OECD average, the report said.
It was followed by Canada, Finland and Ireland.
Australia, Finland, Iceland, South Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Slovakia have all seen their average performances in reading, mathematics and science decline since participating in program, it said.
With reading the main focus of the test this time, it found that one out of four students in OECD countries could not complete basic reading tasks, leaving them dangerously ill-prepared for a life in an increasingly digitalized economy, the report said.
Taiwan, listed as “Chinese Taipei,” tied with Australia in reading, with a score of 503, above the international average of 487, while its students were ranked fifth in math, with a score of 531, and 10th in science, with 516, well above the international average of 489 in those two categories.
In the 2015 survey, Taiwanese students were ranked fourth in science and math, and 23rd in reading, a result that one local professor blamed on the introduction of a computer-based version of the test, the doubling of reading comprehension questions and the inclusion of more open-ended questions.
Students’ social and economic background remained a leading factor for success at school last year, with the richest 10 percent of students in OECD countries reading at a level three years ahead of the poorest 10 percent, it said.
However, the link between background and performance was weakest in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Japan, South Korea, Norway and the UK, which meant that their education systems were fairer, the OECD said.
Screen time was found to be increasingly eating into students’ reading outside of school in the 79 countries surveyed, with the time reported online nearly three hours per workday, up from less than two in 2012, it added.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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