PISA 2012: Swedish-speaking students in Finland perform well in mathematics (30th October 2014)

For the first time in Finland, the students of Swedish-speaking schools performed equally well in comparison to the students of Finnish- speaking schools in the PISA mathematics test. Finnish students in both language groups clearly outperformed the students in the other Nordic countries. However, the Swedish- speaking schools did not perform quite as well as they did in the PISA 2003 study. In the Finnish- speaking schools the decline in the test results was greater, though. A similar development can be seen in all the Nordic countries, except for Norway.

- The mathematics results of Swedish-speaking schools can be seen in a relatively positive light. By contrast, in reading literacy and science these schools performed clearly worse than Finnish-speaking schools. In problem solving, the results of these two groups were rather similar, researcher Heidi Harju-Luukkainen from the Finnish Institute for Educational Research summarises.

Mathematics was the main subject area in the PISA 2012 study. With the support from the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, this was the third time the Swedish speaking schools in Finland participated in the study with a larger sample than usual. This enabled reliable comparison of the mathematics performance between 2003 and 2012.

Helsinki region and Åland Islands performed the best

When comparing the results of Swedish speaking schools, the capital area and the Åland Islands performed the best in mathematics. The rest of the Uusimaa region (the capital area excluded) and Ostrobothnia performed the worst. For example, the difference between Ostrobothnia and the capital area was 21 points, which corresponds to six months’ progress at school.

Gender differences in mathematics and problem solving were small, whereas in reading literacy and science gender differences were statistically significant in favour of girls.

Students of Swedish-speaking schools are happy at school

According to the students, the relations between teachers and students in Swedish-speaking schools were more positive than in Finnish-speaking schools. Also the general order at lessons was better. The feeling of belonging to school was slightly stronger in Swedish-speaking schools, and as much as 86% of the students agreed with the statement “I am happy at school”. In Finnish-speaking schools the corresponding percentage was 66%. In addition, absenteeism and being late were less common in Swedish-speaking schools.

What does PISA measure and how?

PISA is a triennial international survey organised by the OECD. It aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in mathematics, science, reading literacy, and problem solving. Moreover, factors such as school satisfaction and school climate are studied. All in all, PISA is interested in the skills that are related to everyday life and which the adolescents might need later in life.

The study on the PISA performance of the Swedish-speaking schools in Finland was carried out as a separate project at the Finnish Institute for Educational Research (University of Jyväskylä).

- It is important that also in the future international comparative assessments the students of Swedish-speaking schools will be evaluated with large enough samples. Such samples enable a reliable assessment of different student groups, Harju-Luukkainen emphasises.

The report on the results of Swedish-speaking schools’ in the PISA 2012 assessment will be published on October 31 in a seminar organised by Svenska Kulturfonden (http://www.kulturfonden.fi/sv/evenemang/). The report will be made available on the same day at http://ktl.jyu.fi/julkaisut/julkaisuluettelo/julkaisut/2014/d111.

Further information

Information about the publication

PISA 2012: Resultatnivån i de svenskspråkiga skolorna i Finland. Heidi Harju-Luukkainen, Kari Nissinen, Sofia Stolt & Jouni Vettenranta. 2014. Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä.

The publication is freely available online at http://ktl.jyu.fi/julkaisut/julkaisuluettelo/julkaisut/2014/d111 (in Swedish). The printed version can be ordered via FIER customer service, tel. +358 40 805 4276, ktl-asiakaspalvelu@jyu.fi, www.ktl-julkaisukauppa.fi.