OECD PISA results published

Wednesday, December, 2010

One of the fundamental determinants of economic competitiveness is eduational performance and the OECD’s PISA survey of educational performance among 15-year olds is widely regarded.  Countries scoring highly tend to be held in high esteem by potential inward investors.  The latest PISA results (2009) are published this evening.  The executive summary of the OECD findings is available here.

PISA stands for Programme for International Student Assessment and focuses on young people’s ability to use their knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges.  It tests for such skills in reading, mathematics and science.

PMCA considers that such skills in maths are particularly important because maths is the foundation of science and engineering, and underpins advances in these disciplines and facilitates long-lasting innovation.  If Ireland wishes to be world-class in competitiveness and the knowledge economy, it must be world-class in maths – at all levels of the lifelong learning process.

Shanghai-China emerges as an especially strong performer in all three subject areas, signifiantly above the OECD average.  Its score in maths is particularly outstanding.  Potential investors will note these very strong results and see that this is a part of China that has exceptionally strong human capital potential as well as being cost-competitive.  This part of China, it is fair to say, is poised to become hugely attractive as a host location for inward foreign direct investment (FDI). 

How does Ireland perform?  Not terribly well, it is fair to say given the OECD results.  It is not significantly different from the OECD average in reading, is significantly above the OECD average in science but is below the OECD average in maths.  In reading, Ireland’s performance declined between 2000 and 2009; in maths, Ireland’s performance fell between 2003 and 2009.  These are worrying facts.

If Ireland is to make genuine claims of having a well-educated people, it must demonstrate this at all levels and must do so across the board.  It must strive to excel in maths because innovative investors look for strong maths performance, and greater innovation means higher value added and greater living standards.

PMCA considers that maths teaching in Ireland at secondary level, and the bridge between maths teaching at second and third levels, requires attention as part of the competitiveness reform agenda.  This view reflects other recent reports on maths teaching at Irish secondary schools and not just the latest OECD PISA findings.


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