New PISA Scores—Demography Still Rules
December 03, 2013, 02:22 PM
Print Friendly and PDF

Lately, Europeans have really been getting into the international PISA tests of academic performance among 15-year-olds. This test is given in over 60 countries every three years. The 2012 results will be released on Tuesday (10 am Greenwich Mean Time) here.

So, there's going to be a lot of hoopla, but let me link here to some resources for understanding the results, whatever they may turn out to be.

I've got a book review in the pipeline at Taki's Magazine that looks at Amanda Ripley's PISA book, The Smartest Kids in the World, in which she writes up the experiences of three American exchange students who went to PISA powerhouses South Korea and Finland and rising star Poland. I consider whether everybody should put as much faith in PISA scores as Ripley does.

Here's my 2010 article in on interpreting the 2009 PISA test.

Heiner Rindermann has been writing numerous academic articles on what we can learn from PISA as well as competing international tests such as TIMSS and PIRLS, as well as the national standardization of IQ tests. Here is his 2007 paper:

The g-factor of international cognitive ability comparisons: the homogeneity of results in PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS and IQ-tests across nations 

International cognitive ability and achievement comparisons stem from different research traditions. But analyses at the interindividual data level show that they share a common positive manifold. Correlations of national ability means are even higher to very high (within student assessment studies, r?=?.60–.98; between different student assessment studies [PISA-sum with TIMSS-sum] r?=?.82–.83; student assessment sum with intelligence tests, r?=?.85–.86). Results of factor analyses indicate a strong g-factor of differences between nations (variance explained by the first unrotated factor: 94–95%). Causes of the high correlations are seen in the similarities of tests within studies, in the similarities of the cognitive demands for tasks from different tests, and in the common developmental factors at the individual and national levels including known environmental and unknown genetic influences.  

And here is the discussion of his article by numerous academics.

Here is Rindermann's 2009 paper with James Thompson:

Cognitive Capitalism: The Effect of Cognitive Ability on Wealth, as Mediated Through Scientific Achievement and Economic Freedom

Traditional economic theories stress the relevance of political, institutional, geographic, and historical factors for economic growth. In contrast, human-capital theories suggest that peoples’ competences, mediated by technological progress, are the deciding factor in a nation’s wealth. Using three large-scale assessments, we calculated cognitive-competence sums for the mean and for upper- and lower-level groups for 90 countries and compared the influence of each group’s intellectual ability on gross domestic product. In our cross-national analyses, we applied different statistical methods (path analyses, bootstrapping) and measures developed by different research groups to various country samples and historical periods. Our results underscore the decisive relevance of cognitive ability—particularly of an intellectual class with high cognitive ability and accomplishments in science, technology, engineering, and math—for national wealth. Furthermore, this group’s cognitive ability predicts the quality of economic and political institutions, which further determines the economic affluence of the nation. Cognitive resources enable the evolution of capitalism and the rise of wealth.