What is PISA?

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international assessment of ‎the skills and knowledge of 15-year-olds.  PISA ‎assesses students’ performance on ‘real-life’ tasks that are considered relevant for effective ‎participation in adult society and for life-long learning. PISA is a project of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  In ‎Ireland, the project is managed by the Educational Research Centre on the behalf of the ‎Department of Education and Skills.

PISA is implemented every three years, ‎starting in 2000, and 2021 is the eighth cycle of the study. The number of countries ‎participating in PISA has increased from 32 in 2000 to over 70 in 2018, making it one of the largest studies of ‎its kind‎.

The subject areas or ‘domains’ assessed by PISA are reading literacy, mathematics and science. In each ‎cycle of PISA, one of these domains is the main focus (‘major domain’) of the assessment, with ‎less emphasis placed on the remaining domains (‘minor domains’).

In more recent cycles of PISA, additional ‎innovative domains are developed and made available to countries to administer to students. For example, creative problem solving was a minor domain in 2012 (Ireland participated)‎, and collaborative problem solving was an innovative domain in 2015 (Ireland did not participate). Global Competence is the innovative domain in the 2018 cycle; however, Ireland and many other international countries have chosen not to participate in the cognitive assessment. Ireland did, however, administer Global Competence questionnaire items to students as part of the context questionnaire.

Major Domain Minor Domains
PISA 2000 Reading literacy Mathematics, Science
PISA 2003 Mathematics Reading literacy, Science, Cross-curricular ‎problem solving
PISA 2006 Science Reading literacy, Mathematics
PISA 2009 Reading literacy Mathematics, Science
PISA 2012 Mathematics Reading literacy, Science, Creative ‎problem solving
PISA 2015 Science Mathematics, Reading literacy, Collaborative ‎problem solving
PISA 2018 Reading literacy Mathematics, Science, Global Competence
PISA 2021 Mathematics Reading literacy, Science, Creative thinking

PISA has transitioned to a computer-based assessment; in 2015, most countries, including Ireland, administered PISA entirely by computer. In previous cycles of PISA, as well as completing paper-based assessments of reading literacy, mathematics and science, additional optional assessments of digital literacy, computer-based mathematics and problem solving were administered.

Along with assessing the achievements of students, PISA collects detailed contextual information from students, parents, and principals through the context questionnaires. In Ireland, a national teacher or subject co-ordinator questionnaire is implemented in each cycle. The parent questionnaire was first administered as part of PISA in Ireland in 2015, and 2018 and is planned again in 2021. In addition, a national teacher questionnaire for English teachers of Third Year students was included as part of the national administration of PISA 2018.‎