PISA results highlight continued need to tackle educational underachievement

Date published: 06 December 2016

An international survey of educational achievement of 15 year olds show that the performance of Northern Ireland pupils remains stable.

The results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which is co-ordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), provide international benchmarks in mathematics, reading literacy and science in 72 countries. PISA focuses on the ability of 15 year olds to use their knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges.

Key findings for Northern Ireland include:

  • Pupils perform above the OECD average in science.
  • Pupils are at the OECD average in mathematics and reading.
  • The proportion of 15-year-olds who aspire to a career in science is greater in Northern Ireland than the average across OECD members.
  • Extensive quality assurance processes are already in place within the Northern Ireland education system.

Commenting on the results, Education Minister, Peter Weir said he would examine the report carefully to see what lessons could be learned.

He said:

“The PISA report shows that our pupils perform at or just above the OECD average in maths, science and reading. While this is to be commended, our performance has not shown any significant improvement.

“Last week the TIMSS report highlighted the excellent performance of local primary-school pupils. The fact that there is a dip in performance from primary to post-primary continues and was also highlighted in the recent Chief Inspector’s report. This is something I want to understand better. The work of collaboration between primary and post-primary schools is one part of our efforts to tackle this.”

Concluding the Minister said that he wanted to drive more ambitious improvement in every school.

He said:

“Northern Ireland pupils continue to excel in their GCSE and A levels. I am also very encouraged that the gap between the lowest performers and highest performers is closing, in particular through the improvement amongst the lowest achieving learners.

“Raising standards and closing gaps is one of my key priorities. Despite the difficult financial climate, I will continue to invest in schools and support leaders and teachers to help their students achieve and develop to the best of their abilities.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. Northern Ireland findings from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) can be found on the DE website.
  2. Follow us on Twitter @education_NI
  3. See photos from the Department of Education in our flickr collection.
  4. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours, contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 0762 397 4383, and your call will be returned.

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