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Catalonia down slightly in global PISA student rankings

Scores for science and mathematics fell in Catalan schools taking part in 2018 international assessment program


03 December 2019 07:01 PM



Catalonia went backwards in the PISA results for 2018, the international student assessment program of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which evaluates educational systems around the world.

After rising above the average scores for Spain, Europe, and the OECD in 2015, the latest results show a slight fall for Catalan students below the European average, although they remain above the Spanish average and about the same as those for the OECD.

PISA, which is repeated every three years, measures the academic performance of 15-year-old students in mathematics, science, and reading, with some 79 countries and economies taking part in the data collection for 2018.

Specifically, Catalonia scored 15 points less in science (489 points in total) and 10 points less in mathematics (490). The average score for both subjects across the OECD was 489 points, while for Spain as a whole, the averages were 483 and 481 respectively.

Anomalies disqualify reading results

For the moment, there are no reading scores for Spain, after anomalies were detected in the testing, which for the first time was done via a computer. Ironically, the 2018 PISA put a special focus on measuring students' reading skills.

On Tuesday, the Catalan education department said the anomalies cast doubt on the PISA scores and criticized the OECD for publishing the results before resolving the problem, adding that "there's no reason to think" the Catalan education system "has lost power."

Yet, the slide in results in Catalonia was seen generally across Spain, with the country coming seventh among the other autonomous communities in science and ninth in mathematics. Galicia came first in science, while Navarra came first in math.

Few countries around the world improved on their PISA scores, with only seven of the 79 participating showing improvement. Portugal and Estonia were among the European countries with the best scores, with Catalonia on a similar level to Norway and Austria.

In the 2018 edition of PISA, which first began collating scholastic data in 2000, some 1,690 students in 49 schools in Catalonia were examined, with more than 35,000 students tested in over 1,000 schools in Spain as a whole.


  • Students at the Col·legi La Mercè school in Martorell taking the PISA exam in 2018 (by Norma Vidal)

  • Students at the Col·legi La Mercè school in Martorell taking the PISA exam in 2018 (by Norma Vidal)