Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

The High Cost of Low Educational Performance


Table of contentsHow to obtain the publicationPublication launchRelated documents


Pages: 52
Language: English






The High Cost of Low Educational Performance - The Long-Run Economic Impact of Improving PISA Outcomes

While governments frequently commit to improving the quality of education, it often slips down the policy agenda. Because investing in education only pays off in the future, it is possible to underestimate the value and the importance of improvements.

This report uses recent economic modelling to relate cognitive skills – as measured by PISA and other international instruments – to economic growth, demonstrating that relatively small improvements to labour force skills can largely impact the future well-being of a nation.


The report also shows that it is the quality of learning outcomes, not the length of schooling, which makes the difference. A modest goal of all OECD countries boosting their average PISA scores by 25 points over the next 20 years would increase OECD gross domestic product by USD 115 trillion over the lifetime of the generation born in 2010. More aggressive goals could result in gains in the order of USD 260 trillion.


Table of contents

  • The effect of education on economic growth
    • Empirical growth analyses using school attainment data
    • Empirical growth analyses considering cognitive skills
    • Measuring cognitive skills
    • Basic facts of cognitive skills and economic growth
    • Evidence on causality
  • The economic costs of low educational achievement
    • Simulation approach
    • Scenario I: Increase average performance by 25 PISA points
    • Scenario II: Bring each country to the average level of Finland
    • Scenario III: Bring everyone up to a minimum skill level of 400 PISA points
  • Annex A: Deriving a combined historical measure of cognitive skills
  • Annex B: Underlying cross-country growth regressions
  • Annex C: Projection of the economic value of education reforms

How to obtain this publication

Readers can access the full version of The High Cost of Low Educational Performance - The Long-Run Economic Impact of Improving PISA Outcomes through the following options:

Publication launch



Andreas Schleicher presents The High Cost of Low Educational Performance  at its launch hosted by the Lisbon Council.


 Related documents

  • PISA 2006 results


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