What do schools systems which score highly in PISA have in common?

Back to FAQs

Every three years the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) administers the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. Some countries,  perform consistently well. Data from PISA found these countries tended to share many attributes:

• They combine quality with equity.

• They put a high value on education.

• Successful countries accept that pupils can succeed if they are given the opportunity and they put in the effort.

• They don’t divide pupils up at an early age.

• Teachers in successful countries employ a range of teaching practices to personalise learning opportunities.

• Pupils in 2012 were more likely to have attended at lease one year of pre-primary education than their counterparts in 2003.  But many of the pupils who did not attend pre-primary schools were disadvantaged.  These were the pupils who could benefit most from pre-primary education.

• Successful countries value teachers. They are careful how they recruit and train them; they provide continual professional development and they seek ways of improving the performance of weak teachers. In short, they provide an environment in which teachers can collaborate and share best practice.

• High performing systems set high standards and enable teachers to decide how best to teach their own pupils.  Pupils know what's expected in order to succeed.

• If offered a choice of schools, parents tended to prioritise safety and a good reputation over "high academic achievement of students in the school".

• Successful school systems have moved from “professional or administrative forms of accountability and control” to “professional forms of work organisations”. The emphasis is not on outcomes but on the next stage in a pupil’s education: the next teacher, the next school, the pupil’s future life.

• In successful countries there is high performance across the entire system. Resources are directed where they are most needed. The most talented teachers teach the most challenging classes and the strongest heads lead the toughest schools.

• Good pupil/teacher relationships are strongly linked with positive attitudes towards school.  This reduces truancy, disengagement and poor punctuality.  These three factors reduce performance.

Lastly, education policy is aligned with other public policies – they are coherent, sustained and consistently implemented.

A fuller description of the factors and link to sources are here and here.

Updated 8 December 2013