PISA 2018 results (Vol III) — What school life means for students' lives

Career & Education

PISA 2018 results (Vol III) — What school life means for students' lives

Sunday, January 12, 2020

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A positive school climate is one of those things that is difficult to define and measure, but everyone — including parents — recognises it when they see it. The state of the school's facilities, the tone of the conversations in corridors, the enthusiasm of the school staff and the way students interact during breaks are some of the signs that visitors can read to quickly and broadly assess a school's climate.

Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) indicators of school climate — the disciplinary climate, students' sense of belonging at school and teacher support – can be analysed in relation to other PISA data on important student outcomes, such as academic achievement, student misbehaviour and students' well-being, and to key factors that shape students' learning, such as teachers' practices and parental involvement.

Measuring the well-being of 15-year-old students, the target PISA population, is particularly important, as students at this age are in a key transition phase of physical and emotional development. Asking students about themselves gives adolescents the opportunity to express how they feel, what they think of their lives and whether they believe they have the capacity to grow and improve.

Even if the well-being indicators examined in this volume do not refer specifically to the school context — for instance, students are asked how satisfied they feel about their lives in general – adolescents spend a large part of their time at school and their peers play a pre-eminent role in their social lives. In fact, students who sat the 2018 PISA test cited three main aspects of their lives that influence how they feel: how satisfied they are with the way they look, with their relationships with their parents, and with life at school.


School climate

• Co-operation amongst students was more prevalent than competition, on average across Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in 2018. Some 62 per cent of students reported that students co-operate with each other while only 50 per cent of students reported that their schoolmates compete with each other.

• On average across OECD countries and in three out of four education systems, students scored higher in reading when they reported greater co-operation amongst their peers. By contrast, there was no clear relationship between the competitiveness of a school environment and student performance. Teachers' attitudes and practices.

• On average across OECD countries and in 43 education systems, students who perceived greater support from teachers scored higher in reading, after accounting for the socio-economic profile of students and schools.

• Teacher enthusiasm and teachers' stimulation of reading engagement were the teaching practices most strongly (and positively) associated with students' enjoyment of reading.

Student misbehaviour

• According to students, disciplinary climate in language-of-instruction lessons improved between 2009 and 2018, especially in Albania, Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

• Some 23 per cent of students reported being bullied at least a few times a month, on average across OECD countries.

• Some 88 per cent of students across OECD countries agreed that it is a good thing to help students who cannot defend themselves and it is wrong to join in bullying. Girls and students who were not frequently bullied were more likely to report stronger anti-bullying attitudes than boys and frequently bullied students.

• On average across OECD countries, 21 per cent of students had skipped a day of school and 48 per cent of students had arrived late for school in the two weeks prior to the PISA test. In Georgia, Montenegro, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, at least one in five students had skipped school at least three times during that period.

• The countries and economies where fewer students had skipped a whole day of school were also the countries/economies with higher average reading performance, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China), Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong (China), Japan, Korea, Macao (China), Singapore, Sweden, and Chinese Taipei.

Students' well-being

• On average across OECD countries, 67 per cent of students reported being satisfied with their lives (students who reported between 7 and 10 on the 10-point life-satisfaction scale). Between 2015 and 2018, the share of satisfied students shrank by 5 percentage points.

• More than 80 per cent of students reported sometimes or always feeling happy, cheerful, joyful or lively, and about 6 per cent of students reported always feeling sad, on average across OECD countries.

• In almost every education system, girls expressed greater fear of failure than boys, and this gender gap was considerably wider amongst top-performing students.

• In a majority of school systems, students who expressed a greater fear of failure scored higher in reading, but reported less satisfaction with life, than students expressing less concern about failing, after accounting for the socio-economic profile of students and schools.

Students' belief that their ability and intelligence can develop over time (growth mindset)

• A majority of students disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “Your intelligence is something about you that you can't change very much”, on average across OECD countries. However, at least 60 per cent of students in the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kosovo, the Republic of North Macedonia, Panama, and the Philippines agreed or strongly agreed with that statement.

• On average across OECD countries, having a growth mindset was positively associated with students' motivation to master tasks, general self-efficacy, setting learning goals and perceiving the value of school; it was negatively associated with their fear of failure.

Parents' involvement in school activities

• Parents overwhelmingly cited school safety, school climate and school reputation as the most important criteria when choosing a school for their child, followed closely by students' academic achievement and the offering of specific subjects or courses.

• According to school principals, about 41 per cent of students' parents discussed their child's progress with a teacher on their own initiative and 57 per cent did so on the initiative of teachers, on average across OECD countries. However, only 17 per cent of parents participated in local school government and 12 per cent volunteered for physical or extracurricular activities.

• On average across the nine OECD countries that distributed the parent questionnaire, the obstacles that parents most commonly cited as hindering their participation in school activities were time-related, and included the need to work (34 per cent) and the inconvenience of meeting times (33 per cent).

OECD (2019), PISA 2018 Results (Volume III): What School Life Means for Students' Lives, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/acd78851-en.

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