This week, the OECD reported its PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results. Usually administered every three years to hundreds of thousands of students in as many as 81 countries, PISA lets us globally compare 15-year-olds’ reading, math, and science achievement. From the past and now, the data lets us look among countries and inside them.
While as a standardized test PISA ignores certain learning areas, we should take a look at some of the results.
Throughout the testing, students from Singapore, South Korea, and Japan fared well. While there was a post Covid dip, the decline had begun before the pandemic:
Maths and Reading
Below, you can see that students from Singapore, South Korea, and Japan were at the top:
The following graphic from the OECD PISA report uses a gender lens to illustrate the percent of students that scored at proficiency Level 5 or above:
And finally, these are the summary scores from the PISA 2022 report. I copied the top 20 from a much longer list:
ScienceOur Bottom Line: Human Capital
We could say that Pisa measures human capital. Defined as the knowledge with which we equip ourselves, human capital is comparable to physical capital. Together, both compose the capital component of the factors of production–land, labor, and capital. More visible, physical capital is the buildings, tools, and equipment that our businesses combine with land and labor to produce goods and services. When businesses boost production with more physical capital, we can see the additions. However, for human capital, as the knowledge of a scholar or a plumber, more knowledge is less obvious. But still, like physical capital, human capital is a fundamental factor of production.
Through PISA, we see one dimension of human capital…but certainly not all that matter.
My sources and more: Always informed and insightful, Timothy Taylor at the Conversable Economist inspired today’s post. From there, the Pisa report on global learning was ideal for the data. But also, news articles here, here, and here offered insight. Finally, I encourage you to read this Washington Post critique of the test.