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Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) 2021

Published: 31st Jan, 2019

India and OECD sign agreement to enable India’s participation in Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) to be held in 2021.


India and OECD sign agreement to enable India’s participation in Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) to be held in 2021.



  • It was introduced in 2000 by the OECD to test the learning levels of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science. The test is carried out every three years.
  • Students are assessed in reading, mathematics, science and collaborative problem-solving.
  • Participation in PISA allows benchmarking performance against a wide range of countries.
  • PISA uses test items aligned with international benchmarks. Test items are adapted to the local context and language, pilot tested and validated before being used for the test.
  • OECD has agreed to contextualize the questions for Indian students.
  • More than 80 countries, including 44 middle-income countries, have participated in the assessment since the first round of testing in 2000.
  • The list of registered countries includes Brazil, China (certain areas like Shanghai and Beijing) and countries from South-East Asia like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Benefits and significance

  • The competency based assessment of PISA unlike content-based assessment makes it suitable for India.
  • It measures the extent to which students have acquired key competencies that are essential for full participation in modern societies.
  • It would lead to recognition and acceptability of Indian students and prepare them for the global economy in the 21st century.
  • Learning from participation in PISA will help to introduce competency based examination reforms in the school system and help move away from rote learning.


  • India stayed away from PISA in 2012 and 2015 on account of its dismal performance in 2009, when it was placed 72nd among the 74 participating countries.
  • The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) set up a committee to review the matter and in December 2016, the committee recommended that the country should participate in the 2018 test cycle.
  • A similar recommendation was made in 2017 by the group of secretaries on education constituted by PM Narendra Modi. Unfortunately, India had missed the application deadline for the 2018 cycle.
  • Earlier in 2018, Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD) has agreed to tweak the PISA test questions to fit the Indian context, after India decided to end its decade-long boycott of the examination.


    • It was formed in 1961, after the signing of OECD convention by US, Canada and members of Organisation of European Economic Cooperation (OEEC).
    • India, China and Brazil are key partners of the organisation and contribute to its work in a sustained and comprehensive manner.
    • Together with them, the OECD brings around its table 39 countries that account for 80% of world trade and investment, giving it a pivotal role in addressing the challenges facing the world economy.

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