04 December, 2007 - New OECD study again ranks Irish students among top performers - Irish students most acutely aware of environmental issues

A major new international study shows that Irish 15 year-old students are amongst the top performers when it comes to Reading literacy, significantly above average in Science and in line with the average across the OECD in Mathematics. Over 4,500 Irish 15-year-olds, in 165 schools, took part in one of the largest surveys of its kind ever carried out.
The Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin T.D., today launched the publication Ready for Tomorrow's World - the Competencies of Ireland's 15-year-olds in PISA 2006: Summary Report by the Educational Research Centre. PISA is designed to measure how well students can apply knowledge and skills considered to be important for their future lives.It does not aim to measure students' mastery of specific curricular content.

PISA is the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment which is implemented on a three-yearly cycle. PISA is one of the largest international studies of student achievement in the world, with almost 400,000 students taking part in 57 countries.
Today's launch coincides with the OECD's launch of the initial international results of the PISA 2006 assessment which was undertaken by 15-year-olds in 30 OECD countries and 27 other countries. Achievement was measured in three domains - Science (the major domain) and Mathematics and Reading literacy (minor domains). 
Speaking at the launch of the report Minister Hanafin welcomed the results of the OECD study saying, ' I am delighted that, once again in PISA 2006, Irish 15-year-olds were among the top performers with regard to reading literacy, maintaining the position they established in the previous two cycles of PISA. They have also maintained their position in mathematics and science compared with their performance in 2000 and 2003.'


Science - Ireland ranked 14th out of the 30 OECD countries and 20th out of the 57 participating countries. As in the previous two cycles of PISA Ireland's mean score in science was significantly above the OECD average. PISA 2006 particularly focused on students' abilities in comprehending and tackling scientific problems. It also assessed students' attitudes to science. Students in Ireland had the highest mean score of all PISA 2006 countries on one of the three attitudinal indices that could be compared cross-nationally - awareness of environmental issues.  Students in Ireland achieved scores close to the OECD average on the other two - general value of science and self-efficacy in science (self-judgement in own ability to succeed).
Reading - Ireland again performed very well in reading, ranking 5th of 29 OECD countries and 6th of 56 countries (USA results were omitted for technical reasons). Only one EU country, Finland, achieved a higher mean score than Ireland in reading.
Mathematics -Ireland's mean score in mathematics was not significantly different from the OECD average. We ranked 16th of the 30 OECD countries and 22nd of 57 countries. There were fewer lower achievers and higher achievers than the OECD average, with the majority of Irish pupils scoring in the mid range of achievement. As with the other two domains, performance levels for mathematics in 2006 were largely unchanged compared with the previous two cycles of PISA.
Minister Hanafin said she was very encouraged by the results 'there is much to be proud of in the performance of our students in this prestigious international survey. Studies such as PISA provide us with important information on the performance of the Irish education system in the context of international trends. The results also present us with challenges and directions for the continued development of the system and the improvement of the educational experience of our students.'  
No significant gender differences in results

There were no gender differences in overall science scores. However, girls achieved significantly higher average scores in reading while boys recorded slightly higher scores in mathematics. These results are consistent with trends in other countries and with previous cycles of PISA.

Factors affecting performance

In keeping with earlier studies performance was seen to be related to factors such as socio-economic status, gender, the number of siblings in the family, number of books and educational resources in the home and absences from school.

The Minister congratulated the Educational Research Centre on their implementation of the PISA survey in Ireland and on the quality of the published report. She also thanked them for their contribution to the development of the project internationally. Referring again to the importance of participation in international studies such as PISA she paid particular thanks to the school principals, teachers and the students for their co-operation with the survey.


Additional material

Today's publication, by the Educational Research Centre, reports on the third cycle of PISA which took place in March/April 2006. Students were assessed using a mixture of multiple-choice items and open answer questions. Students and school Principals also completed questionnaires, which allowed student and school characteristics to be linked to student achievement. Across all three domains, the results for Ireland indicated that differences in achievement between schools were lower than in most OECD countries.

The first and second cycles of PISA took place in 2000 and 2003 respectively.
The full national report on PISA 2006 will be published in April 2008. It will include a more detailed analysis of the performance and of variables associated with performance.