PISA 2018 Volume 6: ‘Are Students Ready to Thrive in an Interconnected World?’

published 22 October 2020 updated 26 October 2020

The OECD PISA Volume 6 report, released today, broadens considerably the criteria for assessment and international comparisons of PISA. For the first time, the report, based on data collected in 2018, examines students’ global competence. It looks at the ability of 15-year old students to consider local, global, and inter-cultural issues, have respect for and relations with others, and attitudes about and appreciation of diversity. It also looks at issues that are fundamental to democracy and active citizenship, including openness, critical thinking, and other factors. The impact and influence of the Internet in shaping thinking and generating polarisation is also considered.

The original PISA reports focussed solely on reading, numeracy and scientific literacies. In recent years, additional areas have been added, including students’ collaborative skills. The next PISA will include Creative Thinking. Teachers’ views have now also been included in PISA.

This latest departure considered by the OECD to be “still experimental” was controversial with some countries. Belgium, the Czech Republic, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the US, and the UK, with the exception of Scotland did not take part. Nevertheless, sixty-six countries participated.

Learning to Live Together

In OECD countries, 82 per cent of students said that they respect people from other cultures as equal human beings. In all countries, girls reported greater respect for others than boys. In nearly all countries, students with immigrant backgrounds reported greater respect for people from other cultures than their native-born peers.

Questions were asked about immigrants and their rights. Although responses varied considerably by country, an average of 85 per cent of students in OECD countries believed that immigrants should have the same rights to education and 80 per cent felt that they should have equal rights in other areas. The figures were higher for those who had had contact with immigrants and in countries with long-standing immigration and successful integration policies. The attitudes of parents and other students affected the views of those surveyed. Girls were more positive on immigrants than boys. The percentage of students having contact with immigrant students at school varied considerably among countries.

In general, acceptance of diversity and understanding of its value was affected by contact, exchanges, and information about other groups and cultures. Students who learned other languages were also more open to the perspectives of others.

Values and taking action

The survey looked at awareness of global issues as well as an interest in and understanding of how to become active. In terms of awareness of global issues, the leading issue where students were informed was, by far, climate change. Eighty-eight per cent were familiar with it and most of them attended a school where it was taught.

The same relationship between teaching and awareness was reported on poverty, hunger and malnutrition and public health issues. Students who had been active on issues had the greatest awareness and the most positive attitudes. The report suggests that, based on the data, integrating a range of activities into learning environments can help foster intercultural understanding.

Volume 6 raises the question of students understanding and being able to function in democracies as active citizens. The 2018 results showed that only one out of ten students could distinguish between fact and opinion. The report cites the flood of information from the Internet that can shape attitudes, but also create confusion and reluctance to be active. It explains:

“Algorithms behind social media are sorting us into groups of like-minded individuals. They create virtual bubbles that amplify our views and leave us insulated from divergent perspectives; they homogenise opinions while polarising our societies.”

“Tomorrow’s schools will need to help students to think for themselves and join others, with empathy, in work and citizenship. They will need to help students develop a strong sense of right and wrong, a sensitivity to the claims that others make about us, and a grasp of the limits on individual and collective action.”

EI General Secretary David Edwards, responding to the new volume, said, “This recognition that education must prepare students for living with others, embracing values, and becoming active citizens is very welcome. It is an open rebuttal of populist nationalism which seeks to sow fear. It is also a recognition of the vital role of qualified and confident teachers in preparing students to embrace diversity.”

One way in which the report affirms that professional mission is a look into the future, “Whatever tasks machines may be taking over from humans at work, the demands on our knowledge and skills to contribute meaningfully to social and civic life will keep rising.”

The 2018 PISA Volume 6 can be found here

The EI initial analysis and commentary can be found here