The First PISA Assessment of Global Competence
Building on the work of the Center for Global Education at Asia Society and others, OECD has defined global competence as “the capacity to examine local, global and intercultural issues, to understand and appreciate the perspectives and world views of others, to engage in open, appropriate and effective interactions with people from different cultures, and to act for collective well-being and sustainable development.” (OECD, 2020)
In 2018, OECD included an assessment of global competence in its tri-annual Programme of International Student Assessments (PISA). As a first-ever assessment and still in experimental form, not all OECD jurisdictions administering the traditional measures of reading, mathematics and science included the assessment of global competence; 27 countries or economies administered both the cognitive component of the test and the student survey module and an additional 39 administered just the survey. According to Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills at OECD, “…the most interesting finding from this new PISA assessment is that many school activities, including the organization of learning at school, contact with people from other cultures and learning other languages, are positively associated with global competence.” (Schleicher, 2020)What follows is a summary of key findings from the assessment.
- Students in countries ranking highest on the traditional PISA measures were often among those showing the highest levels of global competence although with notable exceptions. For example, Columbia’s students struggle on PISA reading, mathematics and science tasks but were among the highest in global competence. This may be related to the efforts by this country torn by civil war to strengthen civic skills and connections across internal cultural gaps.
- In many countries, students engaged in higher levels of learning about the beliefs, norms, values perspectives, and customs of diverse cultural groups tended to have more positive attitudes and dispositions to other people and cultures. Global competence doesn’t happen of its own accord – it depends on schools concerted efforts to integrate global learning within the curriculum and in instructional activities.
- Economically advantaged students have access to more opportunities to learn global and intercultural skills than disadvantaged students. The data also show that disadvantaged students tend to have less positive attitudes toward other people and cultures. However, their relative lack of access to global learning is not because their schools do not have access to such learning opportunities, rather because within-school mechanisms steer disadvantaged students away from higher engagement in such activities.
- While principals indicated teachers generally held positive multicultural beliefs, these positive views were not always mirrored in students’ perception of discrimination by teachers in their schools, and those perceptions seem closely related to student attitudes. The PISA results show consistent patterns of relationship between students’ perception of discrimination in their school and lower levels of respect for people from other cultures, attitudes towards immigrants, and awareness of intercultural communication. Students who perceived discrimination by their teachers towards particular groups, such as immigrants, exhibited similar negative attitudes.
- Teachers generally report being confident in their ability to teach diverse populations of students. At the same time, teachers report a high need for training in areas such as teaching in multicultural and multilingual settings, teaching intercultural communication, and teaching about equity and diversity.
- Students having contact with people from other countries at school and in their family, neighborhood, and circle of friends is positively associated with students’ intercultural skills and attitudes toward living with others. This positive association may suggest contact with people of different origins and cultures could foster understanding and mitigate prejudice. It further implies that schools and school systems that do not have diverse populations will need to make special efforts to ensure their students benefit from cultural exposure.
- Inequities were found in access to opportunities to develop global competence between boys and girls. Boys, for example, were more often expected to express and discuss their personal opinions on world events, and to analyze global issues. In contrast, girls were more often expected to learn how to solve conflicts and to understand different cultural perspectives on global issues. These data suggest boys may be expected to develop a more “take charge” mindset, whereas girls are socialized to take a more collaborative approach to address differences.
- In nearly all countries, students’ ability to speak two or more languages was associated with positive attitudes towards people from backgrounds different than their own. More than 90 percent of all students surveyed reporting that they learn at least one foreign language in school. The largest proportion of students (more than 60 percent) who reported that they do not learn any foreign language in school were the English-speaking nations of Australia, New Zealand, and Scotland.
These findings from the first OECD assessment of global competence clearly indicate the criticality of education for global competence and where the greatest opportunities lie for leveraging school practice, educational policy, and public interest. Findings from the assessment can be found here.
OECD (2020) 2018 PISA Global Competence.
Schleicher, A. (2020) Are students ready to thrive in an interconnected world? The first PISA assessment of global competence provides some answers.