PISA education survey ⟩ Estonia's 15-year-olds top European scoreboard for knowledge

Photo: Urmas Luik

According to the PISA 2022 education survey, 15-year-olds in Estonia are at the absolute top in Europe in terms of knowledge and skills, and in the top eight globally together with leading Asian nations.

In Europe, Estonia is in a tie for places one and two in mathematics with Switzerland, first in science, and in a tie with Ireland for the first and second place in reading.

Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas said that Estonia's results in comparison with other countries demonstrate that a large proportion of our children achieve basic knowledge in mathematics.

«This means that our teachers pay a lot of attention equally to all the children in the classroom, and we achieve a world-leading result not just with the most able, but with above-average results for all children. The professional skills of Estonian teachers are key here,» the minister said.

The survey also showed that Estonian pupils are mostly satisfied with their lives. On average, 15-year-olds gave their satisfaction with life a score of 6.91 on a 10-point scale, which is higher than the OECD average of 6.75. In Sweden the average score was 6.91 and in Finland 7.41. Boys have higher satisfaction than girls. Students from better socio-economic backgrounds have higher satisfaction.

Children in Estonia also believe that their performance is in their own hands. Similarly to the PISA survey in 2018, Estonia ranks first among countries in terms of growth mindset. Growth mindset implies the belief that a person's ability and intelligence can develop as a result of effort. Children in Estonia also feel safe at school. Pupils' sense of security is higher than the average for OECD countries, especially because of the safer way to school. The sense of security in the classroom and in other rooms of the school are similar to the OECD average. Basic education in Estonia shapes self-directed learners. Estonia is among the countries where seven out of 10 students feel that they are ready for self-directed learning.

Furthermore, the survey shows that school principals and teachers have a great deal of autonomy in Estonia, with Estonia ranking first in terms of teachers' freedom in providing the school curriculum with content and participation in school management decisions.

The challenges for education in Estonia, which need to be actively addressed in the coming years, are the shortage of qualified teachers, which has increased compared to the previous survey. Also, the influence of students' socioeconomic background on receiving quality education has increased to 13.4 percent, with which Estonia ranks near the OECD average of 15.5 percent.

Estonian-medium schools performed better in the survey than the Russian-medium schools of Estonia. The results of students in basic schools in smaller cities have fallen, but the performance of students in basic schools in rural Estonia is still strong, being 34 points above the OECD average. All over the world, the results of students as a whole have fallen this time, but the results of Estonian students deteriorated less than those of students in other countries, which shows that Estonia was able to organize studying quite well during the COVID crisis.

The PISA 2022 results were published simultaneously all over the world on Tuesday. A total of 690,000 students from 81 countries and economic regions took the test in spring 2022. In Estonia, 6,392 students from 196 schools took the 2022 test, which consisted of tasks in mathematics, functional reading, science and creative thinking, with the emphasis this time on mathematics. Students and school leaders also filled in questionnaires which have been used to analyze and interpret the test results.