During the POLPAN Seminar on Tuesday, March 17th, Professor Zbigniew Sawiński (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Educational Research Institute) presented a paper titled ‘Education or culture? What contributes to excellent results in the Programme for International Student Assessment OECD PISA.’


The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment PISA assumes that the school practices from best-performing systems can be adopted in less successful countries. A set of achievement tests in mathematics, reading, science, and problem solving is applied in PISA to measure school performance. It can be argued, however, that the average achievements calculated on the country level poorly reflect the school performance. Countries differ in terms of economic, social and cultural development, which translates into values and patterns of upbringing.
Students across countries differ in motivation, in attitudes towards schooling, as well as they differ in non-cognitive characteristics, such as conscientiousness, self-control, or perseverance, which facilitate the correct completion of any test. That’s why PISA results closely coincide with the boundaries on the map of world cultures, developed by Ronald Inglehart. A few examples will show how cultural differences translate into students’ answers in PISA. The results undermine the PISA assumption that the educational practices from one country can be adopted in another. The obstacles arise from close connections between education and culture, what makes school systems to be considered as country-specific.