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Southeast Asian Educationists Ruminate on PISA 2012 Results

Once every three years since 2000, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducts large-scale learning surveys in OECD and partner countries, the results of which have been known to create anxiety among policymakers and curiosity among researchers and educationists.

How do respective education systems stand at the international level in terms of student achievement in reading, mathematics and science? The PISA 2012 result revealed that East Asian economies continued to be top performers in international education league tables whereas the countries from Southeast Asia showed relatively weak performance, with the notable exception of Singapore and Vietnam. Vietnam in particular was recognized as a newcomer to this international assessment, scoring above the OECD average.


Particularly worrisome has been continuous low performance of students from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand over the past cycles of the PISA test despite repeated government initiatives to redress this situation. Recognizing the need to reflect on this issue and exchange ideas on possible solutions, SEAMEO RECSAM, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Malaysia, and the Regional Centre of Expertise, University Sains Malaysia, organized the 1st symposium on PISA in Penang from 13-15 October 2014. More than 100 participants and guest speakers representing Ministries of Education, research institutions, universities and schools from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam participated in this symposium.

The event began with a one-day workshop, facilitated by Dr. Petra Lietz from the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER), which provided opportunity for participants to get hands-on experience in analyzing data from PISA 2012 using statistical tools such SPSS and HLM (Hierarchical Linear Model). The workshop was followed by the symposium where guest speakers and assessment experts from relevant institutions of participating countries presented the result of their analysis and critically reviewed the findings from PISA 2012. While the speakers, based on findings of their analysis, presented some possible factors that could be holding back student achievement in the respective countries, they also emphasized a need to conduct further in-depth analysis to draw a full picture and to identify further factors hindering improvements to education quality at the country level. Furthermore, they highlighted the lack of institutional and human capacity that may hamper them in making full benefit from the available data sets and conduct analysis that can lead to appropriate policy recommendations and eventually, policy measures that can improve the quality of learning in these countries.

Ms Tserennadmid Nyamkhuu representing the Network on Education Quality Monitoring in the Asia-Pacific (NEQMAP) of UNESCO Bangkok, which is a regional network that focuses on research and capacity development in education quality monitoring, joined this symposium. She shared information on the network and its on-going and future activities such as research studies and capacity development workshops that aim to enhance the use of large-scale assessment data and discussed the possibility of future collaborative works with potential partner organizations including SEAMEO RECSAM in this area at sub-regional and/or the regional level.

For more information, please contact Ramya Vivekanandan [r.vivekanandan(at)] at the Education Policy and Reform Unit (EPR).

Written by: Tserennadmid Nyamkhuu [t.nyamkhuu(at)]

Related Links:

• Network on Education Quality Monitoring in the Asia-Pacific (NEQMAP)

• RECSAM PISA symposium

• PISA 2012