The international PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test takes place every three years, the last one being in the spring of 2018 and including 79 countries. Students are measured in three areas: reading comprehension, mathematics and science. Results are presented by the OECD. The assessment measures students’ “knowledge and skills,” as well as students’ opinions about the school atmosphere.
According to the PISA test, Hungarian students are performing better in all areas than in 2015, with results now close to the OECD average of the world’s most-advanced countries. The Hungarian government credits a number of factors for its success, although State Secretary for Public Education Zoltán Maruzsa maintains that more work is needed for further improvements. Maruzsa credits developments in public education, state responsibility for maintaining schools, Hungary’s teachers, and government measures supporting families with children and education.
It is acknowledged that Hungary must do more for the disadvantaged, but differences in family background play less and less of a role in the performance of Hungarian students. Since 2013, there have been efforts to make sure that socioeconomic background does not put some students at a disadvantage. Hungary introduced various state measures to address this and began to ensure that there were not only better schools in rich communities and worse schools in poor areas.
Hungary’s number of underachievers in all areas has also decreased, now standing at 15.5%, with the OECD average being 13.3%.
Some highlights: In this latest round, Austria’s results weakened but still outperformed Hungary. France and Germany had similar results to Hungary. 73% of Hungarian students said they think their teacher likes to teach; the OECD average was 74%. 68% of Hungarian students said they were satisfied with their life; the OECD average was 67%.
Another positive was less school absenteeism: In OECD countries, 21% of students were absent from school at least one day in the two weeks before the PISA test, compared to only 12% in Hungary.
Out of the 79 countries that participated, Hungary now ranks 29th to 38th in literacy (2015: 35-47), 31st to 37th in mathematics (2015: 35-39), and 29th to 34th in science (2015: 34-39).
For reading comprehension, the Hungarian score is 8 points lower than that of Austria, but 6 points better than Luxembourg. In mathematics, the Hungarian score is the same as Spain’s, 3 points better than the United States’, but 6 points worse than Italy’s. In the field of science, the Hungarian score is 2 points lower than the Spanish score, but 3 points better than Russia and 13 points better than Italy.
Next year, the Hungarian government will spend HUF 645 billion more than in 2010 on education, 355 billion more on teacher salaries, twice as much for the free textbook program, three times as much for free student meals, and other continuous school improvements.