Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015: Highlights from Scotland's results
Report covering Scotland's performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015, covering maths reading and science.
5. Performance in Reading
- 84. Reading was assessed as the main domain in 2000 and 2009, with the 2003, 2006, 2012 and 2015 PISA cycles providing a briefer update.
- 85. Scotland's mean score in 2015 (493) was statistically lower than in 2012 (506).
- 86. Over time, Scotland's performance fell significantly between 2003 and 2006 before stabilising in 2009 and 2012. Although significantly lower than 2012, Scotland's 2015 performance was similar to 2006 (499) and 2009 (500) ( Table A.11).
- 87. In 2015, the mean score for reading in Scotland was similar to the OECD having been above it 2009 and 2012. Chart 5.1 below shows Scotland's score compared to the OECD average over the six waves of PISA since 2000. The 95-per-cent confidence intervals are included.
Chart 5.1: Comparison of Scotland and OECD reading scores over time
Comparisons with other countries
- 88. Of the 34 other OECD countries, and three UK administrations, 13 were statistically above Scotland, 12 similar and 12 below. Of the UK administrations, England and Northern Ireland were similar to Scotland, with Wales below Scotland. Table 5.1 below shows which countries performed above, similar to and below Scotland in 2015. Table A.12a, located in the annex, shows each country's score.
Table 5.1: OECD countries and UK administrations, statistically higher than, similar to and lower than Scotland in reading
|Higher score than Scotland||Similar score to Scotland||Lower score than Scotland|
|New Zealand||Spain||Slovak Republic|
- 89. Compared to 2012, a greater number of countries performed significantly higher than Scotland, there was a small increase in the number of countries similar to Scotland, and a decrease in the number of countries below Scotland. The numbers of countries placed higher, below or similar to Scotland in the six waves since 2000 are shown in the chart below.
Chart 5.2: Numbers of OECD countries and UK administrations- scoring above below or similar to Scotland in reading in PISA since 2000 
- 90. As might be expected given our decline relative to the OECD average, there have been changes in the relative positions of OECD countries. The changes can be categorised as follows:
- 91. Countries which have maintained their performance, but moved ahead of Scotland as its score declined. This includes Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway
- 92. Countries who improved their performance and moved from below to above Scotland. This applies to Slovenia with a 24-point improvement
- 93. Countries who maintained their performance and moved from below to alongside Scotland. This applies to the Czech Republic, Denmark, Latvia, Spain, the United States.
- 94. Countries who improved their performance and moved from below to alongside Scotland. This applies to Sweden
- 95. Switzerland saw a decline in its score and remained alongside Scotland. While still above Scotland, Japan and Korea saw significant declines in their Reading performance in 2015.
- 96. Among the participating non- OECD states ( Table A.12b), three were above Scotland: Hong Kong-China; Macao-China; and Singapore (the top scorer, as in science and maths).
- 97. Five countries were similar to Scotland, including Chinese Tapei (previously above Scotland), B-S-J-G (China) and Viet Nam. The Russian Federation improved their performance to move from below to alongside Scotland. Croatia maintained their score as Scotland declined in order to move from below to alongside Scotland.
- 98. Twenty-nine countries were below Scotland.
Distribution of scores
- 99. Scotland's spread of attainment, measured by the standard deviation (91 points) was below the OECD average (96 points). Six countries had a narrower distribution, 11 were similar and 20 had a wider distribution. Scotland's spread of attainment was similar to the previous PISA cycle (2012 = 87 points).
High and low achievers
Low performance (below Level 2)
- 100. The proportion of students in Scotland below Level 2, was 17.9 per cent, a significant increase on the 2012 figure of 12.5 per cent, but similar to the 2009 average of 16.3 per cent. However it was lower than the OECD average of 20.0 per cent.
High performance (Levels 5 and 6)
- 101. At the other end of the distribution, the proportion of Scotland's students who were higher achievers (Level 5 and above) was 6.4 per cent, statistically lower than the OECD average of 8.4 per cent. Table A.13 shows each OECD country and UK administration's distribution of scores by proficiency level.
- 102. Girls statistically outperformed boys in reading. The average score for males was 483 and for females was 504, a gap of 21 points (2012 = 27). This gap was statistically similar to the OECD average of 27 points (2012 = 38). The difference with the OECD is no longer significant, as it was in 2012, largely because the OECD gap has declined.
Change over time
- 103. The gap between girls and boys did not change significantly between 2012 and 2015. The 10-point fall in boys' performance was not significant. Girls, however, saw a 14-point fall that was significant.
High and low performers
- 104. In terms of the gender share of higher and lower achievers, 7.6 per cent of girls and 5.2 per cent of boys achieved Level 5 and above (no significant difference). Boys were significantly more likely than girls to perform below Level 2 (21.4 per cent vs 14.4 per cent).
- 105. The share of higher performers among boys in Scotland was smaller than the OECD (12.4 per cent), but girls had a similar share to the OECD (8.9 per cent)
- 106. The share of lower performers among boys in Scotland was similar to the OECD (23.0) per cent). However, for girls, lower performers had a significantly lower share than across the OECD (23.7 per cent).
- 107. The share of variation in test scores that was explained by students' background was 8.6 per cent. This was significantly smaller than the OECD average (11.9 per cent), and similar to Scotland's figure in 2012 (11.0 per cent), but less than Scotland's figure in 2009 (14.4 per cent).
- 108. In 2015 the OECD calculated the impact of a one-point improvement (the gradient) in the Index of Economic, Social & Cultural Status ( ESCS) to have been around 32 score points in the reading assessment for Scotland. This was significantly smaller than the OECD average of 37 points. Scotland's figure was similar to 2012 (35 points) but still less than the estimated impact in the 2009 survey (44 points) suggesting a sustained reduction in the gap between more and less disadvantaged pupils.
- 109. The average score gap between the 5 th and 95 th percentile by ESCS was 83 points - again equivalent to around three years of schooling.
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