Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education


In today’s global economy, countries need high-quality education systems that will teach their citizens the skills necessary to meet the challenges of tomorrow. This series of videos, produced jointly by the OECD and the Pearson Foundation, highlights initiatives being taken by education authorities around the world to help school students do better.


The school systems featured were chosen for their strong performance in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Every three years, PISA evaluates the skills of 15-year-old secondary students in three basic areas: reading, mathematics and science. Pencil-and-paper tests assess how well they analyze problems, seek solutions and communicate ideas. Around half a million students participated in the latest round, carried out in 2009 in some 70 countries and economies.

Starting from very different levels, a number of countries and regions have succeeded over the last few years in raising their students’ performance substantially. They display some important common features. Their politicians and social leaders share with parents, teachers and students a strong belief in the value of education. Resources are channeled to the areas where they will provide the greatest results. All students are given opportunities to achieve success.


The best systems deliver strong and equitable learning outcomes across widely varying cultural and economic contexts. By showing what they achieve, the PISA tests provide a mirror to all countries and demonstrate what is possible. Others can learn from those that do well. The purpose of these videos is to transmit ideas and stimulate debate.



Belgium (Flanders):

The regional government of Flanders, combining both regional and community powers, oversees an education system that is among the world's top performers.



Creating and Nurturing a Laboratory of Innovation and Best Practices

In a decentralized system dogged by uneven teacher quality, poor infrastructure and low student commitment, Brazil is using benchmarking to identify problems and drive reform.


Maintaing a Strongly Supportive School System

Finland's schools are well integrated in communities and teachers are highly committed, making it a top PISA performer with little variation among pupils of differing backgrounds. 


Expanding Educational Opportunity to Improve Outcomes for Every Student

The 2001 "PISA shock" sparked a nationwide debate in Germany about the nation's school system and how to improve it.



Educating students to think independently in confronting the challenges of modern society

To help students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, the government requires students to study topics from different viewpoints and draw links between what they observe.



Using ICT to make a successful education system even better

Building on the successes of its fast-developing ICT sector, Korea is using digital technology to stimulate a creative approach to learning that gives students access to education materials wherever and whenever they want.



In a drive to raise the quality of classroom teaching and boost student performance, Dutch education authorities are encouraging teachers to learn from each other through a process of peer review.


Ontario, Canada:
Making Sure Students From All Backgrounds and Origins Can Fulfill Their Potential

Provincial governments run education in Canada, and Ontario shows how high-school students can do well whatever their family background, first language or place of birth.


Changing the Structure of the School System to Give Better Education Opportunities for All

Poland overhauled its school system, raising performance to similar levels to the United States and Norway despite spending less than half of what those countries spend on education. 


Reorganizing the school network to provide better facilities and new opportunities

Faced with widespread underperformance and inequalities of opportunity and outcomes, Portugal is reorganizing and modernizing its school network, grouping schools in 'clusters' that offer better facilities for all.


Shanghai, China:
Raising Standards by Getting Strong-Performing Schools to Help Weaker Ones

A drive by Shanghai authorities to help low-performing schools and students took the city's secondary-school students to top place in the PISA 2009 tests.


Building a strong and effective teaching force

A strong education system has enabled Singapore to develop a modern vibrant economy. Well trained and highly motivated teachers are central to its success.

 See also

  Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education - Lessons from PISA for Japan

This publication focuses on how Japan is reforming its education system not only to produce better learning outcomes, but to equip students with the skills they need to navigate through the unpredictable labour market of the future and to participate in society as active citizens.


  Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education - Education Policy Advice for Greece

The future of Greece’s well-being will depend on improving educational performance to boost productivity and improve social outcomes. In the current economic context, with the need to get best value for spending, Greece must and can address inefficiencies in its education system.


  Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education - Lessons from PISA for the United States

US President Obama has launched one of the world’s most ambitious education reform agendas. Under the heading “Race to the Top”, this agenda encourages US states to adopt internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace: recruit, develop, reward, and retain effective teachers and principals; build data systems that measure student success; and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve their practices and turn around their lowest-performing schools.











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