Estonian students have been ranked as the best performers in Europe in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment, known worldwide as the PISA report, which is published every three years.
The PISA 2018 program tested around 600,000 15-year-old students from 79 countries and economies on reading, science and mathematics. The main focus was on reading literacy, with most students doing the test on computers.
Estonian pupils are the best in Europe and also among the strongest of the world when aggregate scores are compared.
The OECD countries
Most countries, particularly in the developed world, have seen little improvement in their performances over the past decade, even though spending on schooling increased by 15% over the same period, the OECD remarked. In reading, which was the focus of the study, the Chinese and Singaporean scored significantly higher than other countries.
The top countries among the 36 OECD members were Estonia, Canada, Finland and Ireland.
Within the club of developed countries, schoolchildren from Estonia, Canada, Finland and Ireland were the ones who demonstrated the best performance in reading. In science, the rankings are led by students from Japan and Estonia, while in mathematics the best were those from Japan, Korea and Estonia.
The Estonian Ministry of Education and Research celebrated these results and stressed that the number of Estonian top performers increased compared to PISA 2015. “13.9% of the students are able to solve complicated and very complicated tasks, compared with the OECD average of 8.5%,” the Estonian education authorities said in their statement.
Finnish schoolchildren achieved a very good result, despite losing their crown of the best in Europe.
Compared with 2015, Finnish students’ mathematical literacy remained unchanged, but performance in science literacy declined, admitted the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.
Finnish students aged 15 got 520 points in reading literacy. Finland was preceded by China’s BSJZ area (Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang 555) and Singapore (549). The scores of Macao-China (525) and Hong Kong-China (524) were also among those whose scores did not differ statistically significantly from those of Finland.
Finland’s mean score fell by 6 points compared with PISA 2015. Finland’s mean score has dropped by 16 points relative to 2009 and by 26 points relative to 2000.
In Finland, the gender gap in reading literacy performance has consistently been one of the highest in the participating countries. The difference in favour of girls was 52 points, compared with an average of 30 points in OECD countries. Among boys, the number of low-performing readers has increased since 2009.
Student's negative attitude towards reading has caused concern among authorities. The Ministry of Education highlighted that more pupils than before reported a negative attitude to reading: the number of people who reported that one of their favourite hobbies was reading decreased by nine percentage points since 2009. As many as 63% of Finnish boys agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “I read only if I have to.”
Finland combines high performance with satisfaction
The Finnish Ministry of Education also stressed that PISA 2018 examines well-being as a whole, including material dimensions and those related to attitudes in students’ personal lives, their school environment and outside school.
And from the perspective of material and objectively measurable factors, Finland is among the world’s wealthiest nations, only preceded by the other Nordic countries, Canada and Australia.
With a mean score of 7.61 (on a scale of 1 to 10), students’ own assessment of their satisfaction with life is fairly high.
"When examining the relationship between life satisfaction and performance, Finland stood out from other countries and economies. Finland was the only country where both reading proficiency and satisfaction with life were at a high level," the Finnish Government said.