PISA 2023 ranking: what are France's results?

The highly anticipated PISA ranking, the international program for monitoring student achievement, 2023 edition, was unveiled this Tuesday, December 5.

PISA 2023 ranking: what are France's results?

The highly anticipated PISA ranking, the international program for monitoring student achievement, 2023 edition, was unveiled this Tuesday, December 5.

The PISA 2023 ranking was unveiled this Tuesday, December 5. This new edition is based on 85 participating countries compared to 81 previously, including 355 establishments in France and 8,000 students drawn at random. As a reminder, the international PISA ranking makes it possible to measure the effectiveness of the education system of the countries concerned.

This study, which can be consulted in its entirety on the OECD website, is carried out every three years among 15-year-old students in middle schools, general and technological high schools, both in public and private establishments.

In order to obtain the results, students take several tests. The first is a reading comprehension test, then followed by the mathematical culture test, the scientific culture test and finally the creative thinking exercise.

France is not a good student. It is within the average for OECD countries, with 474 points in mathematics, below the average, at 480 points; 474 points in reading comprehension while the average is 482 points; 487 points in scientific culture points while the average is 491 points.

We must remember from the Pisa 2023 ranking (called 2022 because the study reports last year's results in reality) this: the overall results are in decline, in particular due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Only three countries manage to do better than in 2019: Singapore, Japan, South Korea. Everyone else has worse results.

But France’s results are particularly bad, with an even more marked downward trend. France ranks 23rd in the ranking, while it is 7th world power. The results are especially in decline in maths for 15-year-old students. “In mathematics, the sharp decline observed in France between 2018 and 2022 is the largest observed since the first PISA study” in 2000, with a drop of “21 points, compared to a drop of 15 points for the average,” notes the OECD.

The complete PISA 2023 ranking

For each edition, one of these themes is chosen to be the major subject of the edition, for 2022 it is mathematics. In 2012, mathematics was also the major in publishing and France was in the average of OECD countries. A drop in level when it was above the average in 2003. Other studies have also looked into the question of the level of mathematics of students in France. In particular “The State of School” published in 2022 by the statistical service of the Ministry of Education which declares: “for thirty years, a very significant decline in the average level and an increase in inequalities”. In parallel with the publication of the PISA ranking, the Minister of Education, Gabriel Attal, is expected to unveil this Tuesday, December 5, a series of measures to raise educational standards.

The last edition of the PISA ranking dates back to 2019 (with an interruption due to Covid). France was then placed 23rd out of the 79 countries evaluated. Published in December 2019, the last edition this time focused on reading comprehension, where France obtained a score of 493 points, slightly above the average of 487 points for OECD countries.

On average, France was situated within the OECD average but the study clearly demonstrated the importance of the social origin of students in their results. The public life site takes up a conclusion from the report according to which "the written level of the 10% of students from the richest families is equivalent to an advance of approximately three school years compared to the 10% of students with the highest incomes. poor". The revealed Pisa 2019 rankings cover tests carried out in 2018 and not 2019. See the full Pisa 2019 rankings

PISA assesses the skills of 600,000 15-year-old students in three areas: reading comprehension, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy. The quality of this survey is recognized and its results are, every three years since its creation in 2000, closely scrutinized by the Ministries of Education. PISA can still be the subject of criticism: a survey that is not representative enough (only a little over 6,000 students are tested in France), disparities in the educational systems of countries which distort the ranking, etc.

The PISA program, more often called "PISA ranking", owes its acronym to "Program for International Student Assessment". This set of studies carried out by the OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, is designed to measure the performance of education systems within countries, in a standardized manner and on a large scale. The survey is published every three years after being conducted among tens of thousands of 15-year-olds. It is carried out in the 34 OECD member countries, but also in a large number of partner countries. The first PISA survey dates from 2001.

More concretely, PISA measures the acquired knowledge and skills of young people from the four corners of the planet and the performance of countries' educational systems as understood by the OECD. With the slogan: “What 15-year-olds know and what they can do with what they know.”

The PISA survey is not the only educational survey to give rise to a ranking (on this subject, see our ranking of high schools or even the famous Shanghai ranking for universities). But relayed by media around the world and the result of large-scale field tests, it has maintained a strong impact since its creation almost 20 years ago. Its conclusions are intensely taken up by the national press, which does not hesitate to describe the poorly classified participants as “dunces” or to suspect their students of being “imbeciles”. The ranking of participating countries also attracts the attention of teachers or education specialists, torn between its usefulness and its potential abuses. The very important part given to sciences in the ranking is, for example, criticized. However, most at least agree to recognize the beneficial effects of the media exposure of the PISA ranking: it encourages authorities and public opinion to take a closer look at the functioning of their educational systems. And to ask the question of their effectiveness.

The PISA ranking titled “Pisa Ranking 2018” was published in December 2019. The main subject tested this time was reading. More than half a million students took part in two-hour tests in 2018, with the concrete goal of determining “what 15-year-olds know and what they can do with what they know ". France is ranked 23rd. Here is the full ranking:

Concretely, the three-year PISA survey consists of having students from each participating country complete a background questionnaire by type of assessment. Three subjects are tested: reading, math and science. The selected schoolchildren are between 4,500 and 10,000 per country to work on each of the tests. Their selection is done in a very specific way, via a random sample of educational establishments (whether public or private) as well as on the criterion of age: from 15 years 3 months to 16 years 2 months when starting the evaluation. It is therefore not the class in which they study which determines the choice of “guinea pigs”.

Then, the selected students are given written tests with either open-ended or multiple-choice questions. However, it is not a question of ticking without thinking: "The most complex tasks in PISA tests ask students to think about and evaluate what they read, and not just to answer questions to which they there is only one correct answer", remind the organizers.

For open questions, schoolchildren even have to argue. The tests last two hours in total for each student, specifies the OECD. The situations described in the questionnaires are inspired by the real world.

Tests of reading, mathematical culture or even scientific culture... "Rather than mastering a specific school program, PISA tests students' ability to apply the knowledge acquired at school to real-life situations" , further specifies the official site. It is therefore more skills than knowledge that are scrutinized. But that's not all. The student's own approach to learning or their social, economic, demographic and educational background are also the subject of a "contextual" questionnaire to be completed in half an hour. These factors are in fact potentially at the origin of the performance of the students tested and can determine their learning potential over the course of their lives.

Finally, a questionnaire completed by principals allows PISA to integrate into its ranking criteria the particular way in which each school is organized. Also note: each three-year assessment focuses on a particular skill. As for the development of the questionnaire, an international consortium works hand in hand with the national project directors. It is also this Consortium which, once the responses have been collected, communicates the results to the OECD Secretariat - project manager - as well as to the PISA Steering Committee.