Publication of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

Date published: 03 December 2019

A major international study of educational achievement has been published today.


The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) provides the opportunity to compare the achievement of 15-year-old pupils both internationally and across the UK.

PISA is a measure of young people’s ability to apply their knowledge to real life challenges involving reading, mathematics and science.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Pupils in Northern Ireland had a mean reading score of 501 and performed above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average.
  • The most disadvantaged pupils in Northern Ireland had a mean reading score significantly above their peers across the OECD (476 and 445 respectively)
  • The gap in performance between the most and least disadvantaged pupils in Northern Ireland (62 points) was smaller than the OECD average of 89 points and pupils in Northern Ireland were relatively well able to overcome the disadvantages of their background, than across the OECD countries on average.
  • Northern Ireland’s mean score in mathematics (492)  has remained stable and similar to the OECD average (489) since PISA 2006.
  • Northern Ireland’s mean score in science (491) was at the OECD average (489). However, this has shown a decline over time. 
  • Girls significantly outperformed boys in Northern Ireland in science,  - girls achieved a score of 500 while boys achieved 483.
  • Pupil well-being questions revealed that 93% of pupils felt happy sometimes or always in Northern Ireland, compared to 91% in the OECD countries.
  • Principals in Northern Ireland reported fewer barriers to learning caused by pupil behaviour and truancy.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Northern Ireland findings from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) can be found on the DE website at Pisa 2018 Achievement of 15 year olds Main Focus Reading
  2. NFER is the PISA 2018 national research centre conducting the study on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE) (England), the Department of Education (DE) (Northern Ireland), the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government.
  3. OECD is the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD average is the mean of all OECD countries for which data is available. The OECD average can be used to see how a country compares on a given indicator with a typical OECD country.
  4. Follow us on Twitter @Education_NI and our Facebook page, Department of Education Northern Ireland.
  5. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office Telephone: 028 9127 9772. Out of office hours, contact the Duty Press Officer number 028 9037 8110.

Share this page

Back to top