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The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international standardised assessment of the skills and knowledge of 15 year olds. This programme, in which 32 countries in the 2000 assessment took part, aims to assess performance in three domains: reading, mathematical and scientific literacy.
The Autonomous Region of The Basque Country will officially take part in the PISA 2003 assessment with its own sample.
The PISA project pretends to go beyond the definition of each domain in relation to school curriculum command, but also to look at students' ability and skills relevant for life. The assessment of cross-curricular competences is an integral part of the PISA programme.
The command of procedures, understanding of concepts, and the ability to respond to different situations inside each domain is considered specially important.
The PISA programme understands education as the whole of skills and abilities that assist 15 year old students along their transition into adult life and their integration and participation in society. These skills and abilities must be acquired not only in schools but also through the interaction with the other members of the community.
In short, it aims to assess literacy, understood as the whole of skills necessary to participate actively in society; the learning of these skills is a never ending activity that is developed along a lifetime.

PISA 2000
PISA 2003
Pisa Governing Board meeting 2004
Participating Countries
Australia Czech Republic Ireland The Netherlands Sweden
Austria Denmark Italy New Zealand Switzerland
Basque Country Finland Japan Norway United Kingdom
Belgium France Hong-Kong Poland United States
Brazil Germany Korea Portugal  
Canada Greece Latvia Russian Federation  
Catalunya Hungary Luxembourg Slovak Republic  
China Iceland Mexico Spain  
PISA will assess mathematical literacy in three dimensions:
• First, the content of mathematics, as defined mainly in terms of broad mathematical concepts underlying mathematical thinking (such as chance, change and growth, space and shape, reasoning, uncertainty and dependency relationships), and only secondarily in relation to "curricular strands" (such as numbers, algebra and geometry). The PISA 2000 assessment, in which mathematics is a minor domain, will focus on two concepts: change and growth, and space and shape. These two domains will allow a wide representation of aspects of the curriculum without giving undue weight to number skills.
• Second, the process of mathematics as defined by general mathematical competencies. These include the use of mathematical language, modelling and problem-solving skills. The idea is not, however, to separate out such skills in different test items, since it is assumed that a range of competencies will be needed to perform any given mathematical task. Rather, questions are organised in terms of three "competency classes" defining the type of thinking skill needed:
• The first class of mathematical competency consists of simple computations or definitions of the type most familiar in conventional mathematics assessments,
• The second class requires connections to be made to solve straightforward problems,
• The third competency class consists of mathematical thinking, generalisation and insight, and requires students to engage in analysis, to identify the mathematical elements in a situation and to pose their own problems.
• Third, the situations in which mathematics is used, ranging from private contexts to those relating to wider scientific and public issues.
PISA will assess reading literacy in three dimensions
• First, the form of reading material, or text. Many student reading assessments have focused on prose organised in sentences and paragraphs, or "continuous texts". OECD/PISA will in addition introduce "non-continuous texts" which present information in other ways, such as in lists, forms, graphs, or diagrams. It will also distinguish between a range of prose forms, such as narration, exposition and argumentation. These distinctions are based on the principle that individuals will encounter a range of written forms in adult life, and that it is not sufficient to be able to read a limited number of text types typically encountered in school.

• Second, the type of reading task. This corresponds at one level to the various cognitive skills that are needed to be an effective reader, and at another, to the characteristics of questions set in the assessment. Students will not be assessed on the most basic reading skills, as it is assumed that most 15 year-olds will have acquired these. Rather, they will be expected to demonstrate their proficiency in retrieving information, forming a broad general understanding of the text, interpreting it, reflecting on the content and form of texts in relation to their own knowledge of the world, and arguing their own point of view.

• Third, the use for which the text was constructed - its context or situation. For example a novel, personal letter or biography is written for people’s "private" use; official documents or announcements for "public" use; a manual or report for "occupational" use; and a textbook or worksheet for "educational" use. An important reason for making these distinctions is that some groups may perform better in one reading situation than in another, in which case it is desirable to include a range of types of reading in the assessment items.
PISA will assess scientific literacy in three dimensions:
• First, scientific concepts, which are needed to understand certain phenomena of the natural world and the changes made to it through human activity. In OECD/PISA, whilst the concepts are the familiar ones relating to physics, chemistry, biological sciences and earth and space sciences, they will need to be applied to real-life scientific problems rather than just recalled. The main content of the assessment will be selected from within three broad areas of application: science in life and health; science in earth and environment and science in technology.

• Second, scientific processes, centred on the ability to acquire, interpret and act upon evidence. Five such processes present in OECD/PISA relate to:
• the recognition of scientific questions,
• the identification of evidence,
• the drawing of conclusions,
• the communication of these conclusions and
• the demonstration of understanding of scientific concepts.

• All but the last of these do not require a pre-set body of science knowledge. Yet since no scientific process can be "content-free", the PISA science questions will always require understanding of key scientific concepts.

• Third, scientific situations, selected mainly from people’s everyday lives rather than from the practice of science in a school classroom or laboratory, or the work of professional scientists. As with mathematics, science figures in people’s lives in contexts ranging from personal or private situations to wider public, sometimes global issues.
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