The Malta Independent 26 February 2024, Monday
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Maltese students score below OECD average in mathematics, reading and science

Tuesday, 5 December 2023, 18:04 Last update: about 4 months ago

15-year-old students in Malta scored less than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average in mathematics, reading and science, an international report has found.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for the year 2022 report has been issued by the OECD. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) assesses the knowledge and skills of 15-year-old students in mathematics, reading and science. The tests explore how well students can solve complex problems, think critically and communicate effectively. This gives insights into how well education systems are preparing students for real life challenges and future success, the report explains. Malta participated for the first time in PISA in 2010. This exercise is conducted every three years, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not carried out in 2021 and was postponed to the following year.


The Maltese average 2022 results were about the same as in 2018 in mathematics and reading, and up compared to 2018 in science, the report says. "Over a longer period of time, since 2012, PISA results did neither improve, nor deteriorate in Malta, in all three subjects. In mathematics, the most recent results are worse than in 2015, but in line with results from 2012," the report reads.

The OECD report reads that "a smaller proportion of students in Malta, than on average across OECD countries, were top performers (Level 5 or 6) in at least one subject. At the same time a smaller proportion of students than on average across OECD countries achieved a minimum level of proficiency (Level 2 or higher) in all three subjects."


The report read that in Malta, "67% of students attained at least Level 2 proficiency in mathematics (OECD average: 69%). At a minimum, these students can interpret and recognize, without direct instructions, how a simple situation can be represented mathematically (e.g. comparing the total distance across two alternative routes, or converting prices into a different currency)." It went on to read that "Some 7% of students in Malta were top performers in mathematics, meaning that they attained Level 5 or 6 in the PISA mathematics test (OECD average: 9%). At these levels, students can model complex situations mathematically, and can select, compare and evaluate appropriate problem-solving strategies for dealing with them. Only in 16 out of 81 countries and economies participating in PISA 2022 did more than 10% of students attain Level 5 or 6 proficiency."


"Some 64% of students in Malta attained Level 2 or higher in reading (OECD average: 74%). At a minimum, these students can identify the main idea in a text of moderate length, find information based on explicit, though sometimes complex criteria, and can reflect on the purpose and form of texts when explicitly directed to do so." It went on to read that "In Malta, 4% of students scored at Level 5 or higher in reading (OECD average: 7%). These students can comprehend lengthy texts, deal with concepts that are abstract or counterintuitive, and establish distinctions between fact and opinion, based on implicit cues pertaining to the content or source of the information.


"Some 70% of students in Malta attained Level 2 or higher in science (OECD average: 76%). At a minimum, these students can recognize the correct explanation for familiar scientific phenomena and can use such knowledge to identify, in simple cases, whether a conclusion is valid based on the data provided. In Malta, 5% of students were top performers in science, meaning that they were proficient at Level 5 or 6 (OECD average: 7%). These students can creatively and autonomously apply their knowledge of and about science to a wide variety of situations, including unfamiliar ones."

Government statement

A statement by the Education Ministry read that the report indicates that Maltese students have made progress in Science compared to the last report released in 2018.

In Mathematics and Reading, Malta's results are consistent with those of the2018 report, the statement read.

The pandemic has affected all countries, as reflected in the results of this report, to the extent that, on average, in Science, all countries remained consistent with the 2018 report, with Malta improving its position by 9 points, the government said. In Mathematics, the average of all countries decreased by 15 points (Malta decreased by 6 points), while in Reading, the average of all countries decreased by 10 points (Malta by 3 points), the government statement read.

The government said that in Malta, around 13% of students coming from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds are classified in the top quarter of performance in Mathematics. The government statement states that these students can be considered academically resilient because, despite socio-economic disadvantages, they achieve educational excellence when compared to other students in Malta. The percentage of 13% is higher than the OECD country average, which is 10%, the government said.

Feeling safe

The OECD report itself reads that in Malta, 7% of students reported not feeling safe on their way to school (OECD average: 8%); 9% of students reported not feeling safe in their classrooms at school (OECD average: 7%); 10% of students reported not feeling safe at other places at school (e.g. hallway, cafeteria, restroom) (OECD average: 10%).

"Some 24% of girls and 29% of boys reported being the victim of bullying acts at least a few times a month (OECD average: 20% of girls and 21% of boys). On average across OECD countries, fewer students were exposed to bullying in 2022 compared to 2018: for example, only 7% of students reported that other students spread nasty rumours about them in 2022, compared to 11% in 2018. In Malta, too, the corresponding proportions shrank (9% in 2022 compared to 15% in 2018)," the OECD report reads.


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