The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international standardised education research study of 15-year-olds. PISA 2009 is the fourth administration of a three-yearly OECD assessment which began in 2000. Sixty-three countries took part in PISA 2009.
PISA Cycles, Information, Publications and International Data
For each individual three year cycle of PISA and publications based on PISA results please refer to 'Related Pages' inset box. For links to international publications, data and information on the OECD website refer to the 'Where to find out More' inset box.
PISA Key Facts
When: July/August 2009.
4,653 15-year-old students from 163 schools (state, state-integrated and independent) Schools and students were selected using a two
stage stratified sampling design. Internationally nearly 470,000 students took part.
OECD International Standardised Study measuring reading literacy (main focus), scientific literacy and mathematics literacy, and a student,
school and parent questionnaire (see below).
Where: 63 countries (34 OECD countries).
Reading Literacy (main focus)
PISA's Definition of Reading Literacy
An individual's capacity to understand, use, reflect on and engage with written texts, in order to achieve one's goals, to develop one's knowledge and potential and to participate in society.
Source: PISA 2009 Assessment Framework: Key Competencies in reading, mathematics and science, Paris: OECD (2009).
Key Findings: Reading Literacy
PISA assesses and reports on three reading processes – accessing and retrieving information, integrating and interpreting texts and reflecting on and evaluating texts -and two text formats – continuous texts and non-continuous texts. The results form the reading aspects are summarised and reported on an overall reading literacy scale.
- New Zealand 15-year-old students' overall reading performance (521) was substantially higher than the average for the 34 OECD countries (493)
- Of the 65 countries or economies participating in PISA 2009, only two OECD countries, and two non-OECD partner economies performed better1 than New Zealand, four countries were similar, and the other 56 countries performed at a significantly lower level.
- Girls outperformed boys in every participating country. Among the top-and-high performing countries, New Zealand had one of the largest differences between girls and boys.
- There were Asian, Māori, Pākehā/European and Pasifika students who performed at the highest level of reading literacy. While Pākehā/European and Asian students were more likely to be at the higher end and Māori and Pasifika students were over-represented at the lower end, numerically Pākehā/European was the largest group at the low levels.
- Overall, New Zealand had high performance in the reading competencies accessing and retrieving and integrating and interpreting, and showed a particular strength in reflecting and evaluating texts.
- New Zealand students also showed particular strength in reading non-continuous texts (such as graphs and tables). They also performed well above the average for OECD countries in reading continuous texts (prose).
- The reading performance of New Zealand students, on average, did not change between 2000 and 2009.
Performance in reading literacy is also measured in terms of proficiency levels that links student achievement to specific levels of competency and describes the types of reading tasks that students proficient at each level would typically be expected to perform.
- Close to one in six of New Zealand students were top-performing readers (achieved proficiency Level 5 or higher).
- The proportion of New Zealand students (14%) not reaching the baseline proficiency level2 (above Level 1) was similar to that in two high-performing3 countries, but the other two high-performing and the four top-performing countries showed smaller proportions.
Scientific literacy (minor focus)
PISA's Definition of Scientific Literacy
An individual's scientific knowledge and use of that knowledge to identify questions, to acquire new knowledge, to explain scientific phenomena, and to draw evidence-based conclusions about science-related issues, understanding of the characteristic features of science as a form of human knowledge and enquiry, awareness of how science and technology shape our material, intellectual, and cultural environments, and willingness to engage in science-related issues, and with the ideas of science, as a reflective citizen.
Source: PISA 2009 Assessment Framework: Key Competencies in reading, mathematics and science, Paris: OECD (2009)
Key Findings: Scientific Literacy
PISA assesses three scientific literacy competencies (identifying scientific issues, using scientific evidence and explaining phenomena scientifically) and two knowledge domains (knowledge of science – physical, living, earth and space and technology systems and knowledge about science – scientific enquiry and scientific explanations) were assessed in PISA 2009. As scientific literacy is a minor focus of PISA 2009 students results on these competencies and knowledge domains are summarised and reported on an overall scientific literacy scale.
- New Zealand students' overall scientific literacy performance (532) was higher than the average for the OECD countries (501).
- Only one OECD country and three non-OECD partner countries achieved a higher mean scientific literacy score than New Zealand. Six OECD countries were similar, and the other 54 countries were lower.
- New Zealand girls and boys achieved a similar mean scientific literacy performance.
- New Zealand's 15-year-olds' mean performance in scientific literacy did not change between 2006 and 2009.
Performance in scientific literacy is also measured in terms of proficiency levels that links student achievement to specific levels of competency and describes the types of scientific tasks that students proficient at each level would typically be expected to perform.
- Eighteen percent of New Zealand students were top performers (achieved proficiency Level 5 or higher).
- Thirteen percent of New Zealand students did not achieve the baseline proficiency level (above Level 1). This proportion was similar to that in Australia and Japan.
Mathematical Literacy (minor focus)
PISA's Definition of Mathematical Literacy
An individual's capacity to identify and understand the role that mathematics plays in the world, to make well-founded judgements, and to use and engage with mathematics in ways that meet the needs of that individual's life as a constructive, concerned and reflective citizen.
Source:PISA 2009 Assessment Framework: Key Competencies in reading, mathematics and science, Paris: OECD (2009).
Key Findings: Mathematical Literacy
PISA assesses four aspects of mathematical literacy - quantity (numeracy), uncertainty (statistics), space and shape (geometry) and change and relationships (algebra). As mathematics is a minor focus of PISA 2009 students results on the four mathematical content areas are summarised and reported on the combined mathematical literacy scale.
- New Zealand students' overall mathematical literacy performance (519) was significantly higher than the average for the OECD countries (496).
- Five OECD countries and six non-OECD partner countries or economies performed better than New Zealand, four OECD countries were similar, and the other 49 countries had a significantly lower performance.
- New Zealand girls and boys achieved a similar mean mathematical literacy performance.
- New Zealand's 15-year-olds mean mathematical literacy performance did not change between 2003 and 2009.
Performance in mathematical literacy is also measured in terms of proficiency levels that links student achievement to specific levels of competency and describes the types of mathematical tasks that students proficient at each level would typically be expected to perform.
- Nineteen percent of New Zealand students were top performers in mathematical literacy (achieved proficiency Level 5 or higher).
- Fifteen percent of New Zealand students did not reach the baseline proficiency level. This was a similar proportion to Australia. In the United Kingdom and the United States the proportions were larger.
PISA 2009 Questionnaires
The information contained in these questionnaires can be analysed by the mean scientific, reading and mathematical literacy achievement of the 15-year-olds in the 63 participating countries using the link below. Because some questions in the questionnaire above relate to New Zealand only (eg, ethnicity) or contribute to a derived variable (eg, parents' occupation contributes to PISA's SES variable [ESCS]) they are not on the international data set.
- Terms such as 'better', 'larger', 'weaker', or 'smaller' are used when results are statistically significant at the 0.05 level.
- Information about why proficiency Level 2 is defined as 'baseline' can be found in Volume 1, p.52 of the OECD report.
- Top-performing countries are those with a mean score that was statistically higher than New Zealand. Countries with a mean score that is not statistically different from New Zealand are referred to as high-performing countries.
Where to find out more
For queries about the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) please contact the: PISA Mailbox