Successful PISA stories in the EU: how some Member States have been able to improve their performance over time

Mastering of basic skills is a prerequisite to thrive in life, to find fulfilling jobs and to become engaged citizens. In 2018, the EU did not achieve its target to reduce the share of 15-year-olds achieving low levels of attainment in reading, maths and science to less than 15% by 2020. Even though students’ performance in the EU measured by PISA mostly deteriorated over the last decade, some EU countries have been able to beat the overall trend and improve their performance. Many of them are known to have implemented structural education reforms such as increasing school autonomy, tackling inequalities from early years and strengthening teacher training systems. It is therefore, of outmost importance, to understand how certain reforms may have contributed to improving academic success of students in specific countries and identify patterns for successful measures for achieving quality and inclusiveness of the EU education systems - the two of the six dimensions of the European Education Area vision.

The goal of this study is to shed light on the factors behind the PISA improvement in some selected EU countries which show interesting trends in student achievement, by looking at student, school, and system factors, considering regional and national contexts.

The study will aim to expand the existing knowledge about the factors and education reforms that could help achieve better results in the specific country context.   

In the light of the above, this study will:

  • investigate to what extent individual (e.g. migrant background), school (such as school organisation and pedagogical practices) and system factors (e.g. resources, curricula, quality assurance, student tracking, etc.) can explain differences in educational outcomes as measured in PISA.
  • analyse how national reforms have contributed to improving in the PISA performance of specific countries over time and identify patterns for success factors through an analysis of these countries.
  • formulate policy recommendations to tackle underachievement (as measured by PISA) and improve inclusiveness of education systems.

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