PISA: New Skills Measured in International Student Test


This Fall (2015) the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) exam will test tens of thousands of 15-year-old students in 51 countries on reading, math and science.

A new and controversial series of questions to measure collaborative problem solving skills will evaluate the outcomes of games, jigsaw puzzles and experiments accomplished with the help of a virtual partner. The belief is that working with unseen partners, especially online, is becoming an essential skill for career success. It is the way of the future in the workplace.

Countries motivated by international competitiveness and, notably, companies like  Cisco, Intel and Microsoft, are promoting “21st-century skills” for new employees: the ability to think critically and creatively, to work cooperatively, and to adapt to the evolving use of technology in business and society.

The 15-year-old PISA exam, coordinated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a coalition of 34 member countries and their industrial leaders, now tests a more specific set of skills—group problem-solving using the Internet. PISA officials believe this addition will push governments to better prepare their young people to function in the global economy. Participants will record outcomes of games, solve jigsaw puzzles and perform experiments in collaboration with a virtual partner while communicating through a chat box. This addition to the test is based on the belief that working with partners online will be the norm in the workplace of the future.

One criticism of the new question domains is that problem-solving skills may not be the same across disciplines, even though John Dewey and others have insisted that they are.

Test scores on the 2012 test
Test scores on the 2015 test