PISA 2018 results

Keputusan PISA 2018 telah diumumkan semalam.

Here are Malaysia’s average scores:


A friend of Dialog Pendidikan, Pravindharan Balakrishnan, wrote an opinion piece about what PISA results mean for Malaysia and Malaysian politics. Pravin is a former teacher who is currently completing a master’s in Cultural and Education Policy Studies at Loyola University Chicago on a Fulbright Scholarship. You can read his thoughts below, or on Facebook.

PISA is dubbed the Olympics of Education, as national education systems are benchmarked against one another through vertically-positioned league tables. Countries that perform well are celebrated, while countries that are in the bottom are scandalized and criticized. The dichotomy of winners and losers become crystallized, further fostering a culture of competition.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), designed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is a triennial international standardized assessment which measures the ability of 15-year-olds in using their reading, mathematics, and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges. Implemented in a three-year cycle since 2000, PISA is a growing trend. 79 countries participated in PISA 2018, up seven from the 72 countries that participated in PISA 2015.

Malaysia’s participation in both PISA 2009 and PISA 2012 saw the country’s ranking in the bottom third of the table, drawing criticism from both the media and public. To make matters worse, Malaysia was disqualified from PISA 2015 due to sampling error.

Essentially, PISA acts as a report card of a national education system. Therefore, Malaysia’s low ranking in PISA is used as an indicator of its under-performing education standards. It can be said that PISA plays a dominant and authoritative role in the Malaysian education landscape because it is stated explicitly in the Malaysian Education Blueprint that Malaysia aspires to be in the top third of countries in PISA within 15 years.

To start with, why do nations participate in PISA? Different countries have different rationalities. In 2012, the socialist government of Vietnam decided to participate in PISA as a way to integrate the country in the global education landscape, and ultimately, the global economy. As Dr. Noah Sobe states in the recent talk ‘International large-scale learning assessments: benefits and risks’ on December 2, one of the driving force that encourage countries to participate in PISA is due to the idea of ‘ritual of belonging’. In essence, participating in PISA is a statement or act that provides legitimacy of a nation’s education system, and being part of the modern world.

However, what does this mean for Malaysia in our current time? It is no doubt that Malaysia is in a political crisis and it is no secret that the Ministry of Education has been under constant scrutiny from both the media and public ever since coming into office in May 2018. Owing to that, the PISA 2018 results are likely to have a bearing on the education ministry.

This is largely because of how PISA presents itself. In simple words, success in PISA indicates that students are ready to meet future challenges. Implicitly, this fosters the idea that success in PISA translates to economic prosperity. Therefore, in the face of PISA, this leads to huge political decisions in education as PISA produces the realities of national education systems through the ranking tables. This shows that PISA is highly politicized assessment at a national level.

Regardless of the PISA results, the politics of PISA is likely to play out in the coming days in the Malaysian media. Politicians, from both sides, are likely to use PISA results to support their own agenda.

Taking an example from Japan, upon its poor performance in PISA 2003, the then-education minister emphasized a perception that there was a learning crisis. This perception allowed the ministry to push through national standardized tests, which had been a controversial issue in Japan since the 1960s.

The PISA methodology can also be problematic, as John Jerrim, a professor from the UCL Institute of Education, described it as ‘a mysterious black box’ that people outside from OECD are unable to reproduce.

Taking all of this into consideration, particularly the political power of PISA, we should be aware of the claims that are likely to be made in the coming days from the media and politicians based on PISA evidence. We live in an era of statistical certainty, but success or failure in PISA should not be the only indicator educational success, because PISA reduces complex national education systems into simplified and superficial league tables.


Untuk butiran lanjut tentang PISA 2018, lawati laman web OECD. Details available on the OECD website include PISA results across countries (see below).

pisa-results_english


Apakah pendapat kamu tentang PISA? Share your thoughts below.

If you have any questions about interpreting PISA results, feel free to share them also. 🙂

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