UNICEF: Encouraging PISA results should be motivation to accelerate reforms to improve quality education

06 December 2019
A girl raising hand in a classroom

Skopje, 6 December 2019 – UNICEF notes the country should be encouraged by the recent results from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which show significant improvements in learning outcomes in reading, mathematics and science. While the progress is promising, overall student performance remains significantly below the OECD average, calling for all stakeholders to remain committed to education reforms centered on students’ learning needs.

Compared to the 2015 PISA results when the country was ranked among the bottom 5 countries, the 2018 data show improvements across all three subjects and among all students from lowest to highest performers. Still North Macedonia is ranked 67 out of 77 participating countries in reading and mathematics and slightly higher - 63 out of 77 countries - in science, putting the country on the right trajectory for further improvements and advances.

Considering student growth mindset has been linked to higher PISA reading scores, it’s also a concern that in North Macedonia only 24% of students hold a growth mindset - in other words they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement "Your intelligence is something about you that you can’t change very much". 
Education systems need to help students attain knowledge, while also ensuring students know how to use knowledge, develop emotional intelligence, an ability to think critically and creatively, self-discipline and curiosity, a sense of belonging and purpose. UNICEF calls on all stakeholders to remain committed to ongoing evidence-based education system reforms that put learners at the center of change.

Global evidence shows that one of the main drivers of good learning outcomes is quality and competence of teaching - as such there is an ongoing need for interventions that support and motivate teachers. The country is currently in the midst of introducing a merit-based career structure for teachers. There is a need for increasing investments in professional development of teachers, within and outside school, so they can access learning opportunities and become expert teachers as they progress in their career; and a need to strengthen the selection criteria of candidates for future teachers in teacher training faculties, favoring those who have good academic knowledge and skills for quality teaching. 

UNICEF notes, that while the PISA results highlight the need for continued efforts, its important for the country to be encouraged by the progress, particularly since compared to all participating countries, North Macedonia had the highest positive short-term change in results in reading, the second highest in science and third in math’s. This trajectory should motivate all stakeholders to unite their efforts and steer them towards policies and practices that will deliver further improvements.

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Irina Ivanovska

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UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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