The new Pisa results are out

The OECD on Tuesday presented the results of the Pisa student assessment study, this time with data from 79 countries. In 2018, particular focus was put on reading skills. The alarming result: 25 percent of 15-year-olds can neither understand nor relate to the ideas of even simple texts. Are they too distracted by digital media? And what role do country-specific factors play?

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Avvenire (IT) /

More reading but increasingly superficial

We are becoming illiterate amidst the flood of words, warns Avvenire:

“The question of reading, and above all understanding what we read, concerns us all. Even us adults. Due to the trend of reading large numbers of short texts (text messages, e-mails, but also push news) on digital devices and writing messages lacking in punctuation but full of smilies and acronyms - or simply to dictate them - we are forgetting how to read and write. ... It's paradoxical: we are bombarded with stimuli to such a degree that we consume thousands of words every day. Much more than in the past, a number of linguists say. And today's teenagers almost certainly read more words than teenagers did 20 or 50 years ago. But the average quality of modern reading is poor and our brains don't go beyond the superficial.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Primary schools are the key factor

Die Welt is alarmed to learn that in Germany one fifth of all 15-year-old schoolchildren are unable to read simple texts:

“Reading competence is taught in primary schools. If you can't read at the age of 15, you certainly couldn't at the age of nine. All federal states still provide early instruction in a foreign language . ... Starting English instruction at such an early stage is pointless. These weekly hours should immediately be used for additional German lessons instead. ... Equality is not a question of the type of school but of the best possible support. That's why every effort must now be directed towards primary schools. Of all teachers it is primary school teachers who do the most important job. Primary schools must become our elite schools.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Continually distracted by smartphones

The performance of Belgian children once again deteriorated in the latest Pisa study. De Standaard is concerned and seeks reasons outside the classroom:

“It's important to broaden our perspective and look beyond what is happening in and around schools. The whole of society has unmistakably changed in the just under 20 years of Pisa statistics. Not only due to diversity, but also due to technology. There's always a screen somewhere stealing the pupils' attention. Everyone feels that we urgently need ideas to change things here. Otherwise the debate will only keep going round in ideological circles. Teachers must certainly be part of the solution. It can't do any harm to listen to them more.”

Duma (BG) /

Schools were better under communism

Bulgaria has slipped further down the PISA ranking compared to 2015 and is now in last place among the EU states. Duma blames the reform of the country's education system after the end of communism:

“Three years ago we were shocked that 41.5 percent of 15-year-olds had no reading comprehension and were unable to summarise logical thinking in writing. Now that figure has risen to 47 percent! ... Before the Democrats began reforming the 'old education system' [after the collapse of communism], our pupils were among the top five in the world. Now they come last in the EU and are far below the global average. The economists Richard Rahn and Ronald Utt [who worked out economic reforms for Bulgaria in 1990] advised us back then not to change the education system because it was exemplary for Europe. Now Americans are coming back and saying: your education system is bad.”