Measuring Up?

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Measuring Up?

In 2009, nine Latin American and Caribbean countries participated in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a global student achievement test that assesses the skills of 15-year-olds in math, reading, and science. The test has been administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) every three years since 2000. Sixty-five education systems participated in 2009, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.

The Good News

Some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean improved their performance, although none reached OECD levels. Of all participating countries, Peru and Chile improved most in reading and Mexico and Brazil in math. Brazil and Colombia improved in science.

Some countries reduced notably the proportion of students at the lowest levels. Brazil and Mexico reduced the percentage of under perfomers in all three subjects. Chile and Peru did so in reading, and Chile and Colombia in science.

A few countries raised their proportions of top students, but by less than 1 percentage point. Chile and Brazil increased their percentage of top performers in reading; Mexico in math. Chile’s proportion of top performers in science decreased.

The Bad News

All countries in the region ranked in the bottom third in all subjects tested. Chile performed best in the region in reading and science but tied with others in math. Panama and Peru were the worst performers in the region in all subjects.

An alarming proportion of students failed to reach minimum skill levels. Between 30 and 80% of students performed at the lowest levels, depending on the country and subject. Peru and Panama had the largest proportions of low performers in the region.

The proportion of top performers was below 3% in all countries in the region in all subjects. In Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Peru it was below 1% in all subjects.

Countries performed below what their income levels would predict. While higher income countries tended to perform better than lower income countries on PISA, in general, Latin American countries underperformed even when compared to others with similar income per person.

Countries also performed below what their investment in education would predict. While countries that invested more in education tended to perform better on PISA than countries that invested less, in general, Latin American countries did poorly even considering their levels of investment in education.

Worth Noting

Girls in the region outperformed boys in reading, boys outperformed girls in math, and gender differences in science were mixed. Gaps varied widely by country. Colombian boys had the largest advantages in math and science of participating countries.

Rural students lagged behind their urban peers, even after considering income. This gap ranged from a grade level in reading in Uruguay to nearly three grade levels in Panama.

Income gaps were larger than gaps by gender and school location in all countries. Poorest students were more than two grade levels behind their richest counterparts in reading.

Download the complete report below. 



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