Estonia tops tables in PISA international education rankings

Estonian school children have reached the top of the league tables in several categories and overall are ranked first in Europe of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 rankings.

Estonia is top of the tables in reading, math, and science compared to other European countries in the report which was released this week. The country is also the highest placed European country overall when aggregate scores are compared.

The international rankings compare the performance of 15-year-olds in reading, math, and science across 79 countries and economies, including the 36 OECD member states. The rankings take place every three years.

Estonia's overall aggregate score was 1,592 making it the highest placed European country and putting it in fifth place in the league table. Finland was the next highest ranking European country with 1,549 in tenth place. The Chinese region of BSJZ (Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zheijang) was the highest-ranking region with a score of 1,736, followed by Singapore, Macao, and Hong Kong rounding out the top 5.

In the reading test Estonian school children received a score of 523 and 530 for science. For math the score was 536. All the scores can be viewed here (and below) and are ranked by the reading score. OECD countries are bolded.

Study Summary:

  • Estonian students' performance in reading and math has steadily improved since joining the survey. 
  • In the reading test Estonian students exceeded the OECD average by 36 points, in math by 34 points and in science by 41 points.
  • The difference between the results of the socio-economically poorest and the best performing students is well below the OECD average. Children from a migrant background have lower scores.
  • At least once a month, every fourth 15-year-old student in Estonia experienced bullying in Estonia. However, only one in three felt students were competing against each other.
  • More than 75 percent of Estonian students have a growth-oriented mindset, which means that they can develop intellect. At the same time, fewer than half of the others thought they would fail if they failed. 

When compared to the 36 OECD countries, which removes China and Singapore from the ranking system, Estonian pupils were first for reading followed by Canada and Finland both on 520. For science Estonia was placed first with 530 followed by Japan on 529 and Finland on 522.

Estonia was placed third for math on 523 behind Japan on 527 and South Korea on 536.

Last year, Estonia ranked third among other OECD countries in its aggregate results. Much can be attributed to Estonia's rise in the poor performance of Canada and Japan. Their combined score decreased by 21 and 26 points respectively.  

The reading skills of Estonian students saw the most improvement increasing by four points. The score on the math test increased by three points. At the same time, Estonian students received four points less in science. 

The survey also shows that Estonia's education system is relatively equal compared to other OECD countries. While the average score of students with the best and worst socioeconomic background is 89 points, in Estonia it is 61. At the same time, the difference between the descendants of immigrants to Estonia and children born to Estonian parents has not significantly improved. 

So far more than 90 countries and economies have taken part in the PISA survey which is carried out every three years. It allows participating countries and economies to track their progress in meeting key learning goals. PISA is the only international education survey to measure the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds.

Ratas: Estonian education system is among the best in the world

Commenting on the results Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said: "The results of PISA reaffirm that our young people's knowledge, as well as their ability to use this knowledge, is first in Europe and among the absolute best in the world.

"It is a joint result of Estonian teachers, parents and children. It is a testament to our educators, support professionals, and anyone else who cares and works every day to make our top-level education act as a stepping stone for young people into their future lives. Thank you!"

PISA 2018 results

PISA 2018 full results. Source: OECD.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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