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PISA research: Results on "reading literacy"

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As a reaction to Alexandra’s thread: “Was reading encouraged in your school?”, I’d like to present a research called PISA (Programme for international student assessement), whose results were published in 2000.

In this research, the reading literacy, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy of 15 year-old students from all over the world were assessed and compared to each other. As German students didn’t do very well in all the test, a whole campaign was started on how to improve education and boost the results of the children - the whole German school system will be changed in the next 10 years...There’s an article concerning this topic in almost every German magazine one can imagine. To my surprise, the Irish, English and American people don’t even know that such a research has been carried out, so I attached links to the results for you. It is especially interesting for the members of this board who are teachers!

Just look at the result in the reading literacy section: That’s what happens when kids stop reading and discussing books and only rely on their TV.

- In five years, a 15 year-old student won’t be able to fully understand 50 % of the links' contents at the bottom of this thread...this is so sad and scary as well! :( :eek:

- 23 % of the Germany students can only understand elementary texts

- 10 % have problem to understand texts at all

- 13 % can only understand the easiest facst of a given text

- 42 % of the German teenagers hate reading

P.s.: A similar research was carried out with teachers. The results have never been made public.... :(




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International ranking:

Reading literacy:

1. Finland

2. Canada

3. New Zealand

4. Australia

5. Ireland

6. Korea

7. GB

8. Japan

9. Sweden

10. Austria

11. Belgium

12. Iceland

13. Norway

14. France

15. USA

16. Denmark

17. Switzerland

18. Spain

19. Czech Republic

20. Italy

21. Germany

22. Liechtenstein

23. Hungary

24. Poland

25. Greece

26. Portugal

27. Russia

28. Lettland

29. Luxembourg

30. Mexico

31. Brasil

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Thank you for posting that, Svemaus. American illiteracy -- and refusal to see it as a problem -- has long been noted here. I remember reading books about it when I was in high school and thought I would be a teacher. One was called "What Ivan Knows That Johnny Doesn't" (comparing American schools to Soviet schools) and the answer is, pretty much everything. Americans often counter that our students may not be able to read, but they sure are creative (when they grow up, in science and business), while other school systems turn out rote learners. I think one can have a balance.

I'm surprised that Iceland and Denmark are so far down. Danish guidebooks claim 95% literacy. And in Iceland, I'm told (I've never been there) that people read the sagas for fun and discuss them as though they were soap operas, and there's a saying "Better shoeless than bookless." Which, considering Iceland can be a bit cold, is a great compliment to books!

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"Better shoeless than bookless"? - in Iceland?!? i don't *THINK* so. brrrrrrrrrr....

gimme ugg boots. ;)

interesting (& pleasing) to see that australia ranks fourth - but given that literacy is a real concern here, too - 4th may not mean as much as it should.

i volunteer as an adult literacy tutor - and i know the ADULT literacy rates are not at all good, in australia. and my experience as a teacher of primary and secondary school age groups, tells me the same - or worse - about kids today.

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As one who has spent a lifetime in the standardized testing business and the education world I can tell you that comparing things like literacy and ranking countries is like taking apples, pears, and oranges and ranking them as fruit. Makes no sense. Makes no sense with literacy because the tests and how the tests are administered are not comparable. Besides, the question is irrelevant anyway. The variation in reading ability and practice within a country is unbelievably huge in comparison to the variation between countries. Every country has both its literary elite and those who just don’t read very well and don’t like to read.

Reading ability is something that people generally develop over time. It doesn’t happen just in school, but continues throughout life. Adults also love to wring their hands over inadequacies of the younger generations, apparently unaware that they themselves have continued to develop their abilities after leaving school. But the fact is that reading ability in the US as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (probably the most valid overall reading assessment) shows that reading ability of students has remained essentially the same ever since the assessments began in the 70s.

If you want a contrary opinion or you are a Republican, you can even argue that because of Bush’s education program, students are reading better and better. In most states, scores on state reading tests are increasing. (So why doesn’t the most valid assessments confirm this the cynic in me asks.)

I have the sneaking suspicion that kids are pretty much kids whether they are American, German, Finish, Japanese, Indian or whatever.

Entrechat, tour l’air, and sissonne from my soap box.

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What a lovely dismount :)

I think your point about the differences in ranking among countries is a good one -- it's obviously not possible to give the same standardized test, and, as I'm sure you know better than I, there are pitched battles in the States, among the states, about "it's not fair to rank us lower than them because our tests are harder" and I'm sure this is quite possible.

I do remember, though, in Admiral Rickover's books on the Dismal and Appalling State of American Education, Good God, Those Middies Can't Even Read the Poky Little Puppy Much Less Write a Coherent Declaration of War, the good Admiral included an essay written by a Swiss high school student in a school for the mentally retarded -- written in English, not translated -- and one from an American student, not in special ed. The Swiss kid won. (Yes, yes, this is anecdotal, but it was effective.)

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Thanks for the very interesting post, Garyecht. It's true that there are people who like to read and those who don't, but there is the question of, are kids getting the training they need just to get along, not to say prosper?

Your point about reading ability improving over time is well taken. People do forget such things.

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"Makes no sense with literacy because the tests and how the tests are administered are not comparable"  


..."it's obviously not possible to give the same standardized test"

did anyone bother to check the site?

i'm too lazy to have done so - yet. but it's certainly possible to have comparable tests OR the SAME test, and to adminitster it in the same way. as garyecht could tell us, such standards are the basics of 'standardised testing'.

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just delving a little further into this. PISA stands for The OECD


sorry for the long quotes, but i hope 'you' might be as interested as i am, in this.

PISA is a "new three-year survey of the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in the principal industrialised countries.

- The survey, conducted first in 2000, will be repeated every three years.

- 265,000 students from 32 countries took part.

- Students sat pencil and paper assessments in their schools.

- Students and their principals also answered questionnaires about themselves and their schools. This allowed PISA to identify what factors are associated with better and worse performance.

- PISA was co-ordinated by governments of participating countries, through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

- Leading international experts worked to develop an assessment whose results are comparable across different national and cultural contexts."

PISA, a new three-yearly survey of the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in the principal industrialised countries, provides some answers. It assesses how far students near the end of compulsory education have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in society.  - - -

PISA - Reading for Change - Performance and Engagement Across Countries looks more closely at performance in reading. Some countries manage to combine high overall results with relatively small differences among students; in others, there are worryingly large numbers of students capable of only the most basic reading tasks.  - - -

More specific policy messages come from looking at which students read well. Those from more advantaged backgrounds perform better on average, but the gap varies greatly across countries. Female students perform better than male students in every country. But the most striking result reported here is the difference between students who are more " engaged " in reading and those who are less so. Those who express positive attitudes to reading, who read a variety of materials, and who spend time reading for pleasure, are on average much better readers. The analysis also indicates that reading engagement can to some extent compensate for the disadvantage in students' social background.

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Thanks for the quotes, grace. I am still trying to delve through the pages I downloaded.

Of course, when the results became known, there was much broohaha in Germany. ;)

I am not sure which students - from what sort of school-system -they tested.

There are several in Germany, and I had _heard_ that they tested students mainly from the "comprehensive" schools. (I hope that is the correct term? It is the school where all students have basically the same classes, and are not segregated according to apparent ability or talent. )

Anyway, the PISA study has made many people nervous over here. ;)


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