PISA - Against the Odds: Disadvantaged Students Who Succeed in School


Executive summary | Table of contents
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ISBN: 9789264089952
Publication 11/07/2011


PISA - Against the Odds: Disadvantaged Students Who Succeed in School

Many socio-economically disadvantaged students excel in PISA. Students who succeed in school despite a disadvantaged background, known as resilient students, are the focus of Against the Odds. The book provides students, parents, policy makers and other stakeholders in education with insights into what enables socioeconomically disadvantaged students to fulfil their potential.
The more hours disadvantaged students spend learning science at school, the better equipped they are to close the performance gap with their more advantaged peers. Resilient students are also found to have positive approaches to learning, including an active interest in science and greater self-confidence. However, the evidence in PISA shows that positive approaches to learning tend to boost the performance of advantaged students more than that of disadvantaged young people. From an equity perspective, the PISA results suggest that policies aimed at fostering positive approaches to learning should target disadvantaged students more than others.

Executive summary


The proportion of disadvantaged students that are successful varies considerably across educational systems. In some education systems, like in Australia, Canada, Finland, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Portugal close to half of disadvantaged students exceed an internationally comparable benchmark and can be considered successful from an international perspective.

A within-country perspective is best suited for analysing policies, school and student characteristics associated with student resilience. When looking at disadvantaged students that are succesful within countries, resilient students’ performance is high even when compared to their more advantaged peers. On average, most resilient students in OECD countries are strong performers, achieving proficiency Level 4 in the PISA science scale (which has 6 Levels). Students performing at Levels 5 and 6 are considered top performers. In partner countries and economies the vast majority of resilient students achieve at least Level 2, the baseline level, in the PISA science scale. Thus, it is possible to find disadvantaged students, who despite the odds against them, become resilient and succeed at school. These young people show that it is possible for disadvantaged students to excel in PISA.

 Table of contents

  • Chapter 1 PISA as a Study of Student Resilience.
  • Chapter 2 Defining and Characterising Student Resilience in PISA.
  • Chapter 3 A Profile of Student Resilience
  • Chapter 4 Closing the Gap? Enhancing the Performance of Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Students
  • Chapter 5 Conclusions and Policy Implications
  • Annexes


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