What OECD / PISA Is And Why You Should Care

In the wake of an event hosted by BASIS Independent McLean, called “Demystifying Global Education Rankings,” and held on October 24, we thought we’d take a step back and give you background on two acronyms we often talk a lot about: PISA and OECD.

What is The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)?

From the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s website:

“The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. To date, students representing more than 80 economies have participated in the assessment.

The most recently published results are from the assessment in 2012.

Around 510,000 students in 65 economies took part in the PISA 2012 assessment of reading, mathematics and science representing about 28 million 15-year-olds globally. Of those economies, 44 took part in an assessment of creative problem solving and 18 in an assessment of financial literacy.

Consult all PISA 2012 results here.

Seventy-two economies took part in the assessment in 2015 which focused on science. The 1st set of results from the 2015 round will be published on 6 December 2016.

PISA is unique because it develops tests which are not directly linked to the school curriculum. The tests are designed to assess to what extent students at the end of compulsory education, can apply their knowledge to real-life situations and be equipped for full participation in society. The information collected through background questionnaires also provides context which can help analysts interpret the results.

In addition, given PISA is an ongoing triennial survey, countries and economies participating in successive surveys can compare their students’ performance over time and assess the impact of education policy decisions.”

Source: OECD

Why does it matter to the BASIS.ed network – and, especially, to our students and families?

Three fundamental educational questions for which all parents expect their children’s school to have really good answers:

re you teaching my children what they need to learn?
And then… how do you assess what they have learned?
And finally… how do you evaluate your success as an educational program?

If a school cannot persuasively answer these three questions… your children are not in safe educational hands.

From the perspective of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Program for International Student Assessment, the world is a vast ecosystem of classrooms, curricula, teaching strategies and learning needs. Just as an educationally engaged parent poses these three fundamental questions to their family’s school, so OECD poses the same questions to the entire global educational ecosystem.

They want to know what employers are looking for in hiring their next generation of managers and leaders. What are the best educational practices to be found around the world? What parts of this vast ecosystem do the best job of preparing their students for future success? What are the most effective improvement strategies? Where can we find the students who are performing at the highest academic levels, but are also satisfied with the teaching they receive and the learning culture they inhabit? Where can we find schools where students learn to problem solve and to connect the dots, not merely to memorize and to learn by rote?

The data produced by PISA is so powerful and so persuasive that it is now used by governments around the industrialized world as a crucial component in assessing the quality of the system and setting national educational goals.

Let’s return to what matters most to you as a parent: what is the best education I can provide for my children?

Imagine how helpful it would be if your school, or network or school district, could benchmark itself against PISA, and use the resulting data to create a road map for future improvement?

Since 2013, The OECD Test for Schools Based on PISA has allowed individual schools, networks and school districts to do precisely that, and the BASIS.ed network has been closely involved since the program’s inception. All 15-year-old students in our network participate in The OECD Test for Schools based on PISA once their school becomes eligible (they must have 75 students in the eligible age range published separately each year, generally around 15 years old, and a graduating class). The resulting data, combined with our own internal and external performance metrics, guides our management of our network’s learning culture.

Is my child’s school preparing them to be participants, not spectators, in the 21st Century world of commerce and innovation?

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and The OECD Test for Schools based on PISA are where a serious educational answer to your question begins.

“Facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities, this generation requires new capacities. Whether in traditional or more entrepreneurial work environments, young people need to collaborate with others from different disciplines and cultures, in a way that solves complex problems and creates economic and social value. They need to bring judgment and action to difficult situations in which people’s beliefs and perspectives are at odds. They need to identify cultural traits and biases and to recognise that their own understanding of the world is inevitably partial.”

Source: OECD, Global Competency for an Inclusive World


Dr. Q. Mark Reford is an international educator with 25 years of experience in the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia. He has educated students from the early childhood years through university graduate levels, and is currently the Chief Business Development and Brand Officer of BASIS Educational Ventures.

Dr. Q Mark Reford

Dr. Q Mark Reford

Chief Business Development and Brand Officer at BASIS Educational Ventures
Dr. Q. Mark Reford is an international educator with 25 years of experience in the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia. He has educated students from the early childhood years through university graduate levels, and is currently the Chief Business Development and Brand Officer of BASIS Educational Ventures.
Dr. Q Mark Reford

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