TEST scores are not everything. But they do signal something. By this measure (taken by testing 15 year olds on basic academic skills) industrious Asians have maintained their lead over Americans and Europeans, according to the latest PISA ranking, the Programme for International Student Assessment run by the OECD. Strikingly, the city of Shanghai, China and Singapore are among the top (though test scores do not exist for earlier years, so they are not compared with, for example, 2006). America yet again lags on performance, though it has made some advances on more equitable access to education. The usefulness of PISA rankings is not so much about placement but about changes and what that tells us about the successes or otherwise of education reforms. Some countries have made gains like Slovenia and Spain. Some surprising tumblers include Canada, Sweden and Finland (largely due to poorer maths outcomes). Every three years around half a million pupils are tested per country; the latest study saw about 60 participate. Critics will point out the rankings have imperfections. But it gives us a clue to how successful our classrooms are—and that is hard to ignore.
See a representaion of the data by actual score in our other PISA infographic here.