A recent working paper the OECD takes a close look at
the way its own comparative data are being taken up by policy
makers in the OECD-countries: is PISA still causing the 'shock and awe' it did
in Germany in 2000?
Every three years, the PISA results stimulate a global
discussion about school reform in both international media and at
the national level across many OECD and partner countries.
In Germany, the education policy debate and changes have been
intense. Confronted with lower-than-expected results in student
performance, PISA triggered a sustained public debate about
education policy and reform that came to be known as 'PISA
The PISA-inspired debate over public education has resulted in a
range of significant reform measures, including generating national
standards and establishing further support for disadvantaged
students, especially those from immigrant backgrounds.
A similar reaction to PISA 2000 occurred in Denmark, where the
data raised serious questions about how the well-funded Danish
education system yielded only middle-range outcomes, and about why
social equity continued to be a problem despite significant
investment in social welfare programmes.
Countries that have demonstrated the most substantial policy
responses to PISA included those that perform above, at and below
the OECD average. Overall, PISA seems to have become accepted by
policy-makers as a valid and reliable instrument for
internationally benchmarking current system performance and the
relative changes in outcomes.
There is also evidence that PISA has been embedded as an
external global standard for setting system goals and evaluating
system progress. A substantial number of countries have set
PISA-based national performance targets. These policy targets often
define measurable system goals in terms of relative rank or
absolute PISA score.