Rising PISA scores indicate more effective education policies

Published 04.12.2019 16:30
Students taking an exam for high school in a classroom in Bayrakl? district of ?zmir in this undated photo. (?HA Photo)
Students taking an exam for high school in a classroom in Bayrakl? district of ?zmir in this undated photo. (?HA Photo)

Turkey is in a celebratory mood after an international test revealed higher skills among Turkish students. The country has increased its scores in three fields, namely mathematics, science and reading, between the years 2003 and 2018.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a global test run yearly by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The results relating to the last three years were announced on Tuesday. PISA director Andreas Schleicher congratulated Turkey, attributing the country's success in increasing scores in mathematics and science to new education policies.

Turkey has participated in PISA tests since 2003, along with 41 other countries. Over time the number of nations participating in the test has risen to 79. Held once every three years, the test, which examines the skills of students aged 15, assessed the accomplishment of more than 600,000 students for its 2018 edition. Thanks to rising scores, Turkey reached the 40th spot in terms of reading skills, 42nd in mathematics and 39th in science, closer to the OECD average. Meanwhile, China and Hong Kong topped the list of the most successful countries.

National Education Minister Ziya Selçuk responded by saying he was pleased to preside over the education system of one of three countries to have increased its ranks in three fields: "This is a solid sign of achievement," the minister stated. "We will rise even higher, so long as our schools narrow the success gap between themselves," he said.

While the scores of the participant countries' reading skills ranked between 340 and 555, Turkey recorded a score of 466, 13 points above the overall average. While participant scores in mathematics ranked between 325 and 591, Turkey recorded 454; while the average math score of the country has increased to its highest level since 2003. The participant nations' scores in science literacy fell between 336 and 590, in which Turkey got 468 points.

The scores are also the highest for the country since 2006. Deputy Education Minister Mahmut Özer said the results were pleasing: "Our scores in science and math literacy are the highest Turkey has achieved so far in PISA," he pointed out.

Özer says Turkey's average mathematics score reached its highest levels since 2003, while its science score reached its highest level since 2006. "We performed best both in terms of scores and ranking in science literacy," he said, adding that the ministry was working systematically to improve fields that were more lacking. "We want to continue this progressive trend and have many projects in the works to achieve it," he said.

The average scores of 37 of the top countries ranged between 453 and 487. A number of Turkish schools surpassed OECD countries in scores, especially those offering an exclusive scientific curriculum, those geared toward social sciences and "Anatolian" high schools, which offer a more comprehensive curriculum. Such schools scored 583.4, 516.8 and 495 respectively.

Andreas Schleicher says the results indicate a rapid rise in the quality of teaching in Turkey. "This is the result of new education policies, especially those attaching more importance to teachers. I am confident that Turkey will achieve better results in the coming years," he said.

Enver Yücel, who attended the Paris meeting where the PISA results were announced, says better results will be possible with a new education system which places less focus on exams, which impose a great deal of pressure on students. Yücel, founder and chairman of Turkey's Bahçeşehir Uğur Educational Institutions (BUEI), noted that the 2018 PISA survey also measures students' adaption to social life, which reported good results. "Another piece of good news is the limited gap between the genders in terms of success. Girls were less successful than boys in mathematics and science in past editions, but their success rates have tightened this time round," he stated.

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