Malaysian students ranking in PISA survey for reading, mathematics and scientific literacy

January 16th, 2012 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) arose from OECD policy initiatives in the latter half of the 1980s aimed at improving the quality of education throughout OECD countries.

PISA  is an international study which began in the year 2000. It aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in participating countries/economies. Since the year 2000 over 70 countries and economies have participated in PISA.

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.

Sixty-four countries or economies originally participated in PISA 2009: all 34 OECD countries plus 31 partner countries and economies. These 65 participants administered the PISA 2009 tests in 2009.

An additional 10 economies were added in 2010, under PISA2009+. Malaysia is one of the 10, along with Costa Rica, Georgia, Himanchal Pradesh (India), Malta, Mauritius, Miranda (Venezuela), Moldova, Tamil Nadu (India), and UAE.

PISA 2009+ involved testing just over 46 000 students across these ten participants, representing a total of about 1 377 000 15-year-olds.

The PISA sample is drawn from the population of students aged between 15 years and three months (completed) and 16 years and two months (completed) who attend educational institutions and are in the equivalent to Grade 7 or above.

PISA assesses outcomes primarily in the areas of reading literacy, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy.

Reading literacy: An individual’s capacity to understand, use, reflect on and engage with written texts, in order to achieve one’s goals, to develop one’s knowledge and potential, and to participate in society. Mathematical literacy: An individual’s capacity to identify and understand the role that mathematics plays in the world, to make well-founded judgements and to use and engage with mathematics in ways that meet the needs of that individual’s life as a constructive, concerned and reflective citizen. Scientific literacy: An individual’s scientific knowledge and use of that knowledge to identify questions, to acquire new knowledge, to explain scientific phenomena, and to draw evidence-based conclusions about science related issues, understanding of the characteristic features of science as a form of human knowledge and enquiry, awareness of how science and technology shape our material, intellectual, and cultural environments, and willingness to engage in science-related issues, and with the ideas of science, as a reflective citizen.

So, let’s see how our 15-year olds performed among the 75 economies which includes OECD countries:

Students in Malaysia attained a mean score of 414 on the PISA reading literacy scale. This mean score is below the means attained in all OECD countries and equivalent to the mean scores estimated for Brazil, Colombia, Miranda-Venezuela, Montenegro, Thailand and Trinidad and Tobago. In Malaysia, 56% of students are estimated to have a proficiency in reading literacy that is at or above the baseline level needed to participate effectively and productively in life. Students in Malaysia attained a mean score of 404 on the mathematical literacy scale. This mean score is below the means attained in all OECD countries. In Malaysia, 41% of students are 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 considered fundamental for their future development. In Malaysia, there was no statistically significant difference in the performance of boys and girls in mathematical literacy.

Malaysian students were estimated to have a mean score of 422 on the scientific literacy scale. Malaysia’s mean score was significantly higher than that estimated for the lowest scoring OECD country, Mexico. In Malaysia, 57% of students are proficient in science at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the science competencies that will enable them to participate actively in life situations related to science and technology. In Malaysia, there was a statistically significant gender difference of 10 score points in scientific literacy, favouring girls.

FYI, The top economy in the survey, across all 3 areas was Shanghai (China). Singapore was consistently among the top 5, while India’s two states were quite bad, occupying the lower 3 rungs. Other countries which were consistent in top 10 places were Hong Kong, Japan, Finland, Canada and Korea.

Below are some snapshots of the comparison tables.


Math: Science:     The full report (PDF) is found here. (caution: its a 13.5MB size file). sources:,3417,en_32252351_32235731_1_1_1_1_1,00.html



  1. Li-ling says:

    It would be interesting to know or at least have an idea of where/who the participant samples were from.

  2. Nigelvan Andrew says:

    \(-.-)/ that the key!
    if they actually picked a correct student/pupils,sure there will be a better result than this…

  3. niz says:

    rankings.. so this is our target? and readings both comments really dissappoint me..