Monday, March 17, 2008

PISA in Azerbaijan | Take 2 | great maths scores

In a previous post we wrote about the PISA scores of 15-year olds in Azerbaijan. As you may recall, PISA is an international test of competency, primarily focusing on reading, mathematics and science. Azerbaijan deserves particular praise for participating in this challenging international exercise: the results in science were not altogether flattering, but it's better to take part than to stand aside, and it can only be hoped that Georgia and Armenia will also be taking part soon.

At the time of posting, we received some comments that the overall performance was not so bad. Azerbaijani math scores, it was pointed out, were much better. Time, therefore, for another look. Indeed, Azerbaijan performs much better at mathematics. (If you want to see what is being tested, check the PISA sample questions.)

Azerbaijan does better than, say, Argentina, Bulgaria, Mexico, Montenegro, and even Turkey. Conversely, the Baltic states and Russia do better than Azerbaijan. For example, Russia has about 15% reaching Level 4 in Mathematics, and about 6% reaching Level 5 (on a scale from 0 to 6, with 6 denoting highest). Azerbaijan by comparison only has about 7% reaching Level 4 in mathematics, and less than 1% getting to Level 5.

Still, altogether this is highly encouraging news. However, there is one item that is a little hard to explain, and if anyone has any ideas, let us know: according to this OECD data, Azerbaijan has the best basic mathematics training of all participating countries. Only 0.2% do NOT manage to reach the Level 1, which is quite exceptional. In Liechtenstein, for example, a wholesome 4% don't make it to Level 1, in Romania 24%, in Bulgaria nearly 30%, in Brazil even nearly 50%. So with 0.2%, what exactly happened in Azerbaijan? Is it really a case of no-child-left-behind? But what, then, should Switzerland (4.6%), Japan (4%) or Denmark (3.6%) learn from Azerbaijan?

Does anybody know? Did the bad students just not turn up for the test?


Katy said...

I would venture a guess that in some European countries, as kids get to choose focus at a particular age (14? 15? 16?), that all of the kids not doing science/math/engineering/etc. are the ones not taking the PISA exam.


xcaucasus said...

this is an extremely helpful explanation we received from an expert in the field: mathematics in AZE schools is overloaded, at the expense of other sciences (as reflected in the poor scores there).

So the performance in maths reflects a real strength, but also a bit of an imbalance, at least by OECD standards.

Lots of food for research, I guess.

News said...

Didn't Azerbaijan cheat in the PISA tests?

xcaucasus said...

most likely yes. And you could earn an international reputation by digging through the data, and establishing clearly that they did.