The use (and misuse) of PISA in guiding policy reform: the case of Spain

Autor(es): Choi, Álvaro; Jerrim, John

Date: 2016

Pages: p. 230-245

Serie: Comparative Education

Series Volume: 52, 2 (2016)


In 2013 Spain introduced a series of educational reforms explicitly inspired by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012 results. These reforms were mainly implemented in secondary education – based upon the assumption that this is where Spain's educational problems lie. This paper questions this assumption by attempting to identify the point where Spanish children fall behind young people in other developed countries. Specifically, by drawing data from multiple international assessments, the authors are able to explore how cross-national differences in reading skills change as children age. Consideration is given to both the average level of achievement and the evolution of educational inequalities. The conclusion is that policy-makers have focused their efforts on the wrong part of the education system; educational achievement is low in Spain (and educational inequalities large) long before children enter secondary school. This study therefore serves as a note of caution against simplistic interpretation of the PISA rankings.

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