PISA Report: Mexican students drop to the lowest level in reading and mathematics since 2006

Mexican students under 15 years of age perform worse in mathematics and science than in 2006 and drop to their lowest reading level since that year, as revealed this Tuesday by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA, for its acronym in English), the most relevant educational test in the world. The published figures, which correspond to last year, place Mexico in position 51 of the 81 countries evaluated. The States have suffered a general decline due to the covid-19 pandemic, which locked millions of students in their homes.

In the three subjects evaluated, the greatest decrease for Mexicans occurred in mathematics, in which they fell 14 points. Only 3 out of 10 students reached level 2 in this subject, which consists of mathematically representing simple situations such as converting prices into a different currency. The figure falls short compared to the other 38 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – the entity that carries out the report -, where 69% of students pass this test. In fact, in this list of nations, Mexico occupies the second to last position, only above Costa Rica and Colombia.

Mexicans who took the test performed only slightly worse in reading compared to 2018, when the last report was made, before the Covid-19 pandemic. It drops five points, from 420 to 415. It follows the trend of the OECD average, in which other Latin American countries such as Chile or Colombia also suffer a similar decline in issues such as identifying the main idea of ​​a text or extracting relevant information. .

In science, the decrease is nine points, much more pronounced than in the OECD average, where it has dropped two points. In Mexico, only half of the students were able to pass the level 2 test, in which students have to reason an explanation for similar scientific phenomena.

Gender gaps are noticeable in mathematics and reading. In numbers, the boys outnumbered the girls by 12 points; while in the letters, they are nine above. There are alarming social measurements such as that in Mexico 14% of students declared they were not satisfied with their life, a significant increase when contrasted with the 8% who said they felt that way in 2018. The most worrying data is that in Mexico one in every Four students said they felt alone at school and 17% were victims of bullying.

The economic condition of the students’ families is the most influential data in Mexican education. The gap in the evaluations is 58 points between rich and poor, although it is much smaller than in the rest of the OECD countries, where the difference is 93.

The PISA report has recognized that the general decline is due to the covid-19 pandemic, which kept schools closed for up to three months in most countries, including Mexico. Catalina Inclán, an expert in educational policies and teacher training at UNAM, indicates that even the most advanced education on the planet has suffered a setback. “The most robust or better-placed systems at other times had declines in scores. This shows the sensitivity and delicate balance of school activity,” explains Inclán.

In the rest of the world, the report has revealed some surprises. Finnish education, which for decades has been a global example, has been dethroned by a large number of countries, including Estonia, the most prominent state in the European Union. The educational throne goes to Singapore, which along with other Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea show the highest figures in the three featured subjects.

The expert gives value to the latest report, which goes further than previous editions in cultural and social aspects. “The report highlights elements that had not been considered in other deliveries, such as data from the countries with the greatest presence of migrants and their school performance, as well as the use of two languages,” adds Inclán.

The virus delayed the triennial report, which should have been released in 2021 but was pushed back a year to allow for testing data. Despite the decline in the level of its students, Mexico continues to be the third country in Latin America and the Caribbean in mathematics and reading, subjects in which it is only surpassed by Chile and Uruguay. Mexican students have taken this exam since 2000.

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