In the previous article, FactCheck wrote about Georgia’s education system in world rankings as well as about the performance of Georgian students in the respective research studies. In this article, FactCheck analyses the Programme for International Student Assessment’s (PISA)


PISA is a worldwide study which measures the preparedness of 15 year-old students to handle their everyday challenges by using the knowledge and skills they acquired at school. This is the age when students are getting closer to the completion of their mandatory education courses. The study does not aim to assess student performance in the handling of the school curriculum per se but seeks to understand how well-prepared a student is for his active and full-fledged involvement in public life. PISA is administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

PISA has been administered since 2000 and measures knowledge in three domains: reading literacy, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy.

Reading Literacy

– Reading literacy includes the ability to extract relevant information from texts and also to understand, use and reflect on written texts in order to achieve goals, develop knowledge and abilities as well as ensure full participation in public life.

Mathematical Literacy

– Mathematical literacy includes the ability to perceive and understand the role of mathematics in the contemporary world and also the ability for argumentative reasoning. It assesses the capacity of individuals to recognise the role that mathematics plays in the world and make well-founded judgments and decisions needed to be constructive, engaged and reflective citizens.

Scientific Literacy

– Scientific literacy includes the ability to engage with science-related issues, and with the ideas of science, as a reflective citizen. It is being able to recognise science-related issues, acquire new knowledge, explain phenomena scientifically, evaluate and design scientific enquiry, and interpret data and evidence scientifically.

PISA is administered every three years and for each new phase, one of the aforementioned three domains is given a priority. For instance, in the 2009-2010 study the priority was given to reading literacy whilst in 2012 emphasis was made on mathematical literacy and in 2015 on scientific literacy. Apart from the tests, as a part of PISA, students, parents and school principals fill out questionnaires which seek to identify the factors which influence student achievements.

PISA results are important for several major factors as follows:

  • The study aims to contribute to the process of determining education policy. Its research design and reporting methods are tailored in a way that relevant state institutions take the study’s results into account whilst elaborating a respective education policy.
  • The study is based on a “new vision” of literacy which implies student abilities to use knowledge and skills in primary disciplines to analyse, discuss and effectively transmit their opinions whilst solving different situational problems.
  • The study is in line with continuous education principles and does not confine itself only by the assessment of competencies which are envisioned by a national curriculum. Instead, at the same time it aims to study student motivation, self-confidence and attitude towards the process of obtaining an education.
  • The study is administered regularly which enables the participant countries to monitor their performance over a long period of time and assess their results on their way to achieving education goals.
Information based on PISA results has a significant impact upon the teaching and learning processes all over the world. Georgia took part in PISA twice, in 2009 and 2015. In 2012, Georgia did not take part in PISA. The Ministry of Education and Science has not stated the official reason as to why the country refused to take part in PISA. However, it is believed that because 2012 was an election year, PISA would have brought many problems in the country’s education system into the spotlight and this was something which was not exactly in the best interests

of the then Government of Georgia.

Initially, 64 countries and administrative units took part in PISA 2009. However, a little later, as a part of the 2009+ projects, ten new participants,[1]

including Georgia, were added (see the map). The test was administered in Georgia in autumn 2009 and the full-scale research was undertaken in spring 2010.

PISA 2009 participant countries are shown in green

11111111 Source: National Assessment and Examinations Centre

The performance of Georgian students in all three domains – reading literacy, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy – is statistically much lower as compared to the average results of OECD countries.

The average number of points for Georgian students – 374 – in reading literacy is significantly lower than the PISA international average of 493 points. With this result, Georgia is on par with students in Qatar, Peru and Panama. Of additional note is that the reading literacy of nearly 38% of Georgian students is equal or lower to the minimum standard which is necessary for the efficient and productive use of reading. In regard to mathematical literacy, the average score for Georgian students was 379 which is also significantly lower as compared to the international average of 496 points.

The average score for Georgian students in science constitutes 373 which is similar to their scores in reading and mathematical literacy and is tremendously below the international average of 501 points.

In science, nearly 34% of students have an elementary basic knowledge which corresponds to the minimum or subscale level (see Table 1).

Table 1:

Georgia’s and Worldwide Average Points in Different Domains in PISA 2009

Georgia Worldwide
Reading Literacy 374 493
Scientific Literacy 373 501
Mathematical Literacy 379 496
Source: National Assessment and Examinations Centre

The PISA 2009 results illustrate that the majority of Georgia’s students does not possess the skills which are necessary for full-fledged integration into society owing to shortcomings in tertiary education. Student knowledge and abilities are not sufficient for them to move to another level of education and are unsuitable vis-à-vis the goals given in the national curriculum. PISA has identified that school is unable to give students the knowledge and skills which are necessary for citizens of their age.

PISA 2015 was focused on scientific literacy. The participants of PISA 2009 were 540,000 students from 70 countries, including 5,800 students, 5,198 parents and 261 school principals from Georgia.

In PISA 2015, Georgia improved its performance and garnered 411 points although this still significantly lags behind the worldwide average of 493 points. In regard to reading literacy, Georgia is among the 41 countries where reading literacy achievements are far lower than that of the OECD average. Georgia’s ranking position is within the range of 59-64. Of the students who took part in the reading literacy test, half (52%) ended up in the low achievement group whilst only 1% of students were categorised

in the high achievement group.

Despite the improved performance, PISA also illustrated that Georgian students lag behind students of most of the world’s countries and do not possess necessary skills. Finally, PISA research also demonstrated that Georgia’s education system is facing some serious challenges.

  [1] Georgia, Costa Rica, two states of India – Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, Malaysia, Mauritania, Miranda (Venezuela), Moldova and UAE.