National Report on Schooling in Australia 2012

Student achievement – National Assessment Program

5.3 Programme for International Student Assessment

The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) compares the performance of 15-year-old students internationally, using the same assessment tasks. PISA measures how well 15-year-old students are prepared to use their knowledge and skills in particular areas to meet real-life challenges.

More than 510,000 students from 65 countries and economies participated in PISA 2012 and more than 14,000 Australian students took part.

PISA assessments are triennial. Three domains are tested: reading literacy, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy. In each cycle of PISA, one domain is selected as the main focus on a rotating basis. In PISA 2012, mathematical literacy was the major domain. Mathematical literacy was also the major domain in 2003. Once a domain has been a main focus, reliable comparisons can be made between the results in the focus year and results in subsequent testing years.

The Australian Government and all state and territory governments contribute funding for Australia’s participation in PISA. The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) is the national project manager for PISA in Australia.

PISA is one of the international assessments in Australia’s National Assessment Program and provides data for key performance measures specified in the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia. As such, PISA results are used to evaluate progress towards the Educational Goals for Young Australians and the National Education Agreement outcome that Australian students excel by international standards.

PISA enables reporting on comparable performance data every three years, with student achievement able to be disaggregated by sex, Indigenous status, geographic location and indicators of socio-economic background.

Information about the background of PISA, the framework that is used to design the assessments, the management of PISA and further technical information is available from ACER. A national report, which provides information about the performance of Australian students, is published for each PISA assessment. Key findings from the 2012 report are available on the ACER website.

Key performance measures

The proportion of students in the bottom and top levels of performance in international testing is a performance indicator for schooling in the National Education Agreement. The proportions achieving at or above the proficient standard agreed for Australia on the PISA scales are key performance measures (KPMs) in the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia 2012.

The proportions achieving at or above the proficient standard (Level 3) on the OECD PISA combined reading, mathematical and scientific literacy scales are reported in Table 5.6.

Key Performance Measures2e

Table 5.6     Achievement on OECD PISA scales: Proportion of students achieving at each proficiency level; proportion of students achieving at or above the proficient standard (Level 3); Australia, 2012 (per cent); proportion of students achieving at or above the proficient standard, OECD average, 2012 (per cent)

Proficiency level Australian students ()

Note: The OECD average represents OECD countries as a single entity and each country contributes to the average with equal weight.

Source: Sue Thomson, Lisa De Bortoli and Sarah Buckley, Highlights from the full Australian report: PISA 2012: How Australia measures up, ACER, 2013, pp. 13–15