The PISA report measures the effect of the pandemic in Latin America: worse in mathematics, reading and science


The eighth edition of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the largest educational performance report in the world, this Tuesday produced discouraging results for the countries of Latin America. Students between 15 and 16 years old evaluated in the region showed poor performance in mathematics, reading and science. Although with nuances by country, the decrease is a product of the effects that the pandemic has had on the regional educational system. This year, 690,000 students from 81 countries have participated in PISA, of which 38 are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), responsible for the report. The exams were held in 2022, a year late due to Covid-19, in spring 2022.

This was the performance of students in the main countries of the region

Mexico, the worst mark since 2006

Mexican students had their worst performance in mathematics, science and reading since 2006. The figures place Mexico in 51st position of the 81 countries studied. In the three subjects evaluated, the greatest drop in Mexican students occurred in mathematics, in which they fell 14 points. Only three out of 10 students reached level two 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 OECD member countries, where 69% of students pass this test. In this list of nations, Mexico occupies the penultimate position, only above Costa Rica and Colombia.

Mexicans under 15 years old 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. , informs Jorge Vaquero Simancas.

Colombia loses points, but less than the OECD

Colombia lost scores in 2022 in the three educational areas evaluated compared to previous results, which date back to 2018. The area in which it decreased the most was mathematics, going from 391 to 383 points (eight points less), followed by reading, which fell from 412 to 409 (three less). The one with the least variation was science, which went from 413 to 411 (two less). However, the drop was smaller than the drop in the average results of the nations that make up the OECD.

The reduction for Colombian students was 17 points in mathematics, 11 points in reading and four points in science. In a statement in which the Ministry of Education analyzes the data, it states: “The Colombian educational system had resilient behavior in the three areas of knowledge evaluated, given that the results worldwide decreased as expected after the health emergency. but the average score for Colombia did so in a lower proportion,” reports Greace Vanegas.

Students on their first day back to school during the covid 19 pandemic in Bogotá, Colombia, on January 31, 2022.
Students on their first day back to school during the covid 19 pandemic in Bogotá, Colombia, on January 31, 2022.Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Chile, the best among its neighbors

Chile recorded a score lower than the average of OECD countries in all three, but the highest among its Latin American neighbors. In mathematics, the South American country obtained 412 points, five points less than in 2018. “44% of students reached at least level 2 of proficiency in mathematics, significantly less than the average of OECD countries (69%). ”, details the report.

The most advantaged students outperformed the most disadvantaged by 69 points, a difference smaller than the OECD average (93 points). In reading, Chilean students registered 448 points, four less than in 2018 and the worst figure in the last decade. About 66% reached level 2 or higher, below the OECD average (74%). In natural sciences, Chileans maintained the 444 points recorded in the last measurement and surpassed their Latin American peers. The report also noted that between 2018 and 2022 “the gap between the top 10% of students and the weakest 10% narrowed in math, did not change significantly in reading, and widened in science,” it reports. Antonia Laborde.

Brazil, among the 20 worst in mathematics and science

In Brazil it hurts, and a lot, that neighboring Argentina has five Nobel Prizes while the South American giant continues without its debut in that planetary honor. The results of the PISA report also hurt because they are usually quite bad. It is among the 20 worst countries in mathematics and science. In this edition, Brazilian students have worsened in the three areas, especially in mathematics, with a drop of five points, from 384 to 389.

Faced with the temptation to console oneself with the fact that the drop has been less than in the countries that usually top the world ranking, a Brazilian specialist has clarified: “Brazil has had such a bad performance [en PISA] in the last decade there was not much room to get worse,” he writes in the newspaper State Guilherme Lichand, professor of education at Stanford University (USA). Seven out of ten Brazilian students do not know how to compare the distance between two alternative routes. In reading, they fall 2.5 points; and in science, 0.6, reports Naiara Galarraga Gortázar.

A teacher teaches her students, at a primary school in São Paulo, Brazil, in March 2021.
A teacher teaches her students, at a primary school in São Paulo, Brazil, in March 2021.Toni Pires

Argentina, in the middle of the table

Seven out of ten Argentine students are below the minimum level required in mathematics. In reading and science, only half of the country’s students have acquired basic knowledge. The PISA results show Argentina in 66th place, that is, in the middle of the table in Latin America, but behind other large countries in the region such as Chile, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru and Colombia. At the internal level, significant differences remain between regions, with the city of Buenos Aires and the province of Córdoba leading the way.

Data from Argentina shows that the performance of secondary school students remained almost unchanged since the last assessment in 2018, despite the prolonged closure of schools during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and early 2021. However, The fall of the others made it improve slightly in the global ranking. Argentina was now in 66th place in mathematics compared to the 71st place it had obtained in 2018, in reading it went from 63rd to 58th place and in science from 65th to 60th.

The need to increase educational quality has been present on the political agenda in 2023 marked by the presidential elections. After learning the results, the Argentine Minister of Education, Jaime Perczyk, stressed that the great challenge is to ensure that students improve their learning levels: “To improve them, it is necessary to guarantee that there is class every day, every hour and for more years ”. The minister also asked to guarantee that all children go to kindergarten before primary school and to increase class hours, reports Mar Centenera.

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