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OECD Releases 2012 PISA Results

On 3 December 2013, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results. Over half a million 15- to 16-year-old students from 65 countries participated in the PISA survey, which measures mathematics, reading, and science competencies. This year, particular focus was given to mathematics ability. In addition to gathering data on specific knowledge, skills, and abilities, PISA also collects information on students' socioeconomic backgrounds.

The goal of PISA is to be able to present a holistic picture of education systems that can be used to inform education policies in governments around the world. Countries are identified as "successful," according to the OECD, when their students score above average in the three key competency areas, and when students' economic position has a below-average impact on their scores. Schools that focus on equity by giving priority to universal preschool, full-service health and special education programs for all children, and curriculum that puts equal emphasis on writing, math, sciences, and the arts tend to be the most successful. Fairness in resource allocation among schools and populations is another key factor.

Although PISA provides helpful data, there is growing concern that the tool is having a much larger influence over national education policies than maybe it should, since PISA was not originally designed as an international education comparison tool. As with any large data set, identifying causation (rather than correlation) is often problematic. Caution should be exercised when using the PISA results to rank countries as many other factors, such as sudden population changes in nations, can create differences from country to country. While the PISA results do provide interesting data, it is important that countries look at a variety of information when making education policy decisions. The future of childhood education depends on our ability to examine data, make reasonable distinctions between sets of data and then apply this information to education policymaking to reflect our unique set of national circumstances.

PISA Results from OECD
The full results of the 2012 PISA survey are available here:
http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/pisa-2012-results.htm