Indian students fare poorly in international evaluation test

January 16, 2012 03:06 am | Updated October 18, 2016 03:11 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Do our teeth become cleaner and cleaner the longer and harder we brush them? This was followed by two small paragraphs on how to brush your teeth quoting an expert on tooth brushing.

Only 53 per cent students from Himachal Pradesh and 63 per cent from Tamil Nadu were able to answer correctly during the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009 plus exams held last year by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) where India participated for the first time as an additional participant. Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are among the best performing States in the country but even then very few 15-year-olds could fully understand these two simple paragraphs.

This was an example of a simple reading item administered in PISA 2009 where girls significantly outperformed boys. This was in line with the results where Indian students remained at the bottom with only Kyrgyztan performing worse.

But in a comparison between the two States, students in Tamil Nadu attained an average score on the PISA reading literacy scale, significantly higher than those for Himachal Pradesh. As against 17 per cent of students in Tamil Nadu who had proficiency in reading literacy to participate effectively and productively in life, only 11 per cent children in Himachal Pradesh fell in this category

Students in Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu attained a statistically same average score on the mathematical literacy scale with 12 and 15 per cent respectively of students proficient in mathematics at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the kind of skills that enable them to use mathematics in ways that are considered fundamental for their future development.

In Tamil Nadu, there was a statistically significant gender difference in scientific literacy in favour of girls as compared to Himachal Pradesh, even though 84 per cent students in Tamil Nadu were not proficient enough in science at which they begin to demonstrate the science competencies that would enable them to participate actively in life situations related to science and technology.

“Girls not only tended to attain higher reading scores than boys, they were also more aware of strategies for understanding, remembering and summarising information,” according to Professor Geoff Masters, CEO of ACER.

The OECD-PISA is an international comparative survey of 15-year-olds' knowledge and skills in reading, mathematical and scientific literacy. PISA seeks to measure how well young adults have acquired the knowledge and skills that are required to function as successful members of society.

A major goal of PISA is to untangle the factors that are associated with educational outcomes and to guide governments in constructing policies that improve these outcomes.

Background questionnaire

As part of the PISA 2009 survey, students completed an assessment on reading literacy, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy, as well as an extensive background questionnaire. School principals also completed a survey describing the context of education at their school, including the level of resources in the school and qualifications of staff.

School level factors

“Students, who are highly aware of effective strategies for learning and also regularly read a wide range of material, tend to demonstrate better reading proficiency than those who either have a lower awareness of effective strategies or read a narrower range of materials regularly.” Professor Masters said, adding that while school level factors account for a considerable proportion of variation in reading performance between schools, much of this is associated with socio—economic and demographic factors.

“This suggests that policies around governance, accountability, the investment of educational resources and the overall learning environment are influenced by the social and demographic intake of the school,” Professor Masters said.

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