The Programme for International Student Assessment

The Programme for International Student Assessment is a three-yearly assessment ‎programme developed jointly by member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-‎operation and Development (OECD).  It commenced in 2000 and is now the largest ‎international educational survey of its kind.  It is aimed at assessing the broad educational ‎achievements of 15-year-olds in English reading, mathematics and science and their ‎preparedness for adult life.  PISA is not constrained by the content of curricula, and its ‎findings form a significant contribution to policy development in Ireland.  For example, the ‎results of PISA 2009 contributed to the development of Literacy and Numeracy for Learning ‎and Life – Ireland’s national strategy to improve literacy and numeracy among children and ‎young people, 2011-2020(Department of Education and Skills, 2011).

PISA is steered by member governments through the OECD, on the basis of shared, ‎policy-driven interests.  It is managed by a consortium of institutions that was led by the ‎Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) up to and including PISA 2012 and is ‎currently under the direction of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the United States.  ‎Results for PISA 2012 were published in December 2013 and there will be some additional ‎reporting in 2014.  The survey design and assessment materials for PISA 2015 were ‎developed during 2013 for a field trial in 2014 prior to the main study in 2015.‎

Each cycle of PISA focuses on a ‘major’ achievement domain and on two or more ‎‎‘minor’ domains.  In addition, PISA collects detailed contextual information from school ‎principals, students, and, in some countries, parents.  In Ireland, a national teacher ‎questionnaire for teachers of the major domain is also administered.  In the first cycle in ‎‎2000, reading was the major focus.  In the second cycle in 2003, mathematics was the ‎major focus; in the third cycle (2006), science was the major focus.  In 2009, the fourth ‎cycle of PISA, reading was again the major focus, and in 2012, mathematics was the major ‎focus.  While 32 countries participated in PISA 2000, 41 were involved in the second cycle ‎‎(PISA 2003), and 57 countries were involved in PISA 2006.  Sixty-five countries/economies ‎participated in PISA 2009 and 2012.  Since 2003, all OECD member countries have taken ‎part in PISA.‎

Computer-based assessment is becoming a core part of PISA.  In 2009, an optional ‎assessment of digital reading literacy was included, in which Ireland and 18 other countries ‎took part.  In 2012, computer-based assessments of reading, mathematics and problem-‎solving were added and administered in over 40 countries, including Ireland.  For PISA ‎‎2015, work is underway to facilitate an entirely computer-based assessment though the ‎infrastructure in some countries will not yet permit this transition.  To support these ‎developments, the field trial for PISA 2015 will include a comparison of students’ responses ‎on similar items assessed using paper booklets and computers.  In PISA 2015, as well as ‎science, mathematics and reading, collaborative problem-solving will be assessed on ‎computer, and a small number of countries (not including Ireland) will assess financial ‎literacy.  Also for the first time, Ireland will administer a parent questionnaire, and students ‎and principals will complete digital, rather than paper, versions of the background ‎questionnaires.‎

PISA is implemented by the Centre on behalf of the DES.  It is supported in this ‎work by a National Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from the DES and ‎NCCA, as well as subject matter experts in English Reading, mathematics and science.  ‎For each PISA cycle, the OECD publishes an initial international report in the December of ‎the year following the assessment – so for the 2009 cycle, initial results were reported in ‎December 2010, and initial results for PISA 2012 were reported in December 2013.  The ‎Centre publishes national reports to coincide with the initial international publications.  In ‎addition, the OECD publishes subsequent reports on specific themes or optional ‎assessment domains in the year following the publication for the initial results.  So, for ‎example, it will publish results on problem-solving in April 2014. The Centre will also publish ‎additional thematic analyses during 2014.

Three reports based on the 2012 teacher survey have been published by the Centre.  ‎The first, concerning the implementation of Project Maths (a mathematics curricular reform ‎taking place at post-primary level), was published in November 2012, and the second, ‎concerning mathematics in Transition Year, was published in January 2013. A national ‎report on the outcomes of PISA 2012 was published in December 2013. These and other ‎reports for PISA can be found here.