GENERAL EDUCATION
OECD PISA
PISA 2003 results
Young Finns still at the OECD top in mathematical literacy
Finnish 15yearold students, who are in the final year of their basic
education, are the best in mathematical literacy in the whole OECD. The same
level of mathematical proficiency was found in the OECD countries Korea, The Netherlands and Japan and in the PISA
partner countries Hong KongChina and Liechtenstein. Mathematical
literacy was statistically significantly lower in the other participating
countries than in Finland.
Judged by the average results, there has been positive development in
young Finns' mathematical literacy since PISA 2000. Young Finns' average
score in mathematical literacy (544) is 8 point higher in PISA 2003 than in
PISA 2000.
Young Finns reached a high level in all the measured aspects of
mathematical skills, but their best area was quantitative reasoning. Despite
these good mathematical skills, Finland will have to pay more
attention to spatial and geometric skills in the years to come.
Finnish students' learning outcomes in mathematics are also characterised
by a fairly uniform performance. Variation in learning outcome was again
smallest in Finland.
The Finnish results show that it is possible to achieve a high level of
mathematical skills without extreme differences between the lowest and
highestperforming students. Although the variation in skills was negligible
in Finland compared with
the other countries, there are differences in learning outcome in Finland as
well. The students are placed at six proficiency levels according to score
points, with Level 2 marking the minimum base level at which the student has
adequate mathematical knowledge and skills for coping with the demands of
today's and tomorrow's society.
In Finland
93% of students perform mathematical tasks at least at Level 2, as compared
to the OECD percentage of 79%. Finland had a smaller percentage
(6%) of inadequately or poorly performing students that any other OECD
country. The highest Level 6 was attained by 25% of Finnish students, and
some 50% performed at Level 4 or above.
The reason for Finland's
good overall performance was that it had the smallest percentage of poorly
performing students in the OECD. The proportion of lowperfumers on the
"space and shape" scale was a little larger than in the other
performance areas in mathematics, in which the average variation was 12%.
<snip>
The students' socioeconomic background correlates with learning outcome
in mathematics. Children from the highest socioeconomic families outperform
their less advantaged peers in all the participating countries. In Finland the
impact of the family background was smaller than in the other OECD countries.
Differences across schools were smallest in Finland
and in Iceland.
Variation in school performance was very small in Finland (5%). Mathematical
literacy is spread evenly across the country. One intriguing finding was that
young Finns reported lower interest in and enjoyment of mathematics than
young people in the OECD countries on average. <snip>
Development of performance scores in mathematical
literacy, PISA 2000 and PISA 2003


PISA 2000

PISA 2003

Finland

536

544

Nordic countries

514

515

OECD

500

500

EU

491

475

United
States

493

483

Japan

557

534

Young Finns best in reading literacy in the OECD
In PISA 2003 young Finns were again at the OECD top in reading literacy.
They had statistically significantly better reading skills than their peers
in other countries of high literacy, such as Korea
(the difference between Finland
and Korea is not
statistically significant), Canada,
Australia and New Zealand.
In average terms, there has been no significant change in young Finns'
reading literacy from PISA 2000. Reading performance was more even, with the
smallest differences in the OECD and a drop of 8 points in the standard
deviation. Comparisons with the other participating countries show not only
that the reading performance of Finnish students is excellent but also that a
high standard of reading literacy can be achieved with relatively small
differences between students.
The even distribution of reading literacy was also seen in the placement
of students across the performance levels. Among the six performance levels,
Level 3 is considered to be the minimum requirement for meeting the demands
of presentday society. On average 80% of the Finnish students attained this
level (PISA 2000 and PISA 2003). In 2003, 15% of Finnish students achieved
Level 5 (scoring over 625) whereas the OECD average was 8%, with 33%
performing at Level 6 (OECD average 21%) and 32% at Level 3 (OECD mean 29%).
<snip>
Development of performance scores in reading
literacy, PISA 2000 and PISA 2003


PISA 2000

PISA 2003

Finland

546

543

Nordic countries

514

508

OECD

500

493

EU

494

494

United
States

504

495

Japan

522

498

Young Finns reach top standards in scientific literacy
In PISA 2003 four countries clearly outperformed the others in scientific
literacy. These were the OECD countries Finland,
Japan and Korea and the
partner country Hong KongChina. There were no differences in the performance
of these four. Finnish students achieved very similar scores in 2000 and
2003. Young Finns surpassed the goal set in the national mathematics and
science education programme Luma, which was to rank among the best performing
25% in the OECD. Other highperforming countries were Liechtenstein, Australia,
MacaoChina, The Netherlands, and the Czech Republic.
In PISA 2003, Finland improved its performance
in scientific literacy from PISA 2000, achieving high and uniform standards.
The standard deviation in young Finns' performance was among the lowest in
the OECD. A notable feature in the results was that Finnish students outperformed
their peers at all performance levels. Their scores at the lowest and average
levels were higher than those of students from other countries. PISA 2003
results give a positive picture of Finnish students' performance, which will
be in sharper focus still in PISA 2006, in which the main domain is
scientific literacy.
Finnish students' performance was characterised by a high level and even
distribution of scientific literacy. <snip>
Development of performance scores in scientific
literacy, PISA 2000 and PISA 2003


PISA 2000

PISA 2003

Finland

538

548

Nordic countries

505

502

OECD

500

500

EU

492

499

United
States

499

491

Japan

550

548

Finns among the OECD top in problem solving
Finnish students' problemsolving skills are among the best in the OECD.
With its score of 548, Finland
(2nd) was on par with Korea,
Japan
and Hong KongChina.
Here, too, the performance was very even across students and schools.
Especially gratifying was the finding that Finland had the smallest relative
number (5%) of poorly performing students who have not mastered
problemsolving skills. On average, the relative number of lowperforming
students in the OECD countries was three times higher than that of Finland.
Problemsolving has many points of contact with the other PISA domains, the correlation with
mathematics being the strongest. This is not surprising since both
mathematical and general problemsolving require reasoning. The PISA 2003
results confirm the view that PISA
has succeeded in assessing knowledge and skills which students need in their
daytoday life and in the future.
<snip>
Problemsolving scores in PISA 2003


PISA 2003

Finland

548

Nordic countries

514

OECD

500

EU

499

United
States

477

Japan

547

