How to best support children's learning in the New Year?

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

PISA results: Mathematics and reading skills challenging

According to the newest PISA results, student performance in mathematics and reading fell across OECD countries. PISA 2022 is an international test of reading, math, and science administered in 81 countries and education systems to track how 15-year-old students apply their knowledge as they near the end of K-12 and enter postsecondary education or the workforce. The results also show how their academic performance compares to their peers globally. 

What explains the declining PISA results? Covid surely has had an impact, but it cannot be the whole truth. It should also be remembered that PISA measures only certain aspects of learning at a certain age.

What should schools and teachers do differently to get students to learn 21st-century skills in a modern and holistic way? What should parents and homes maybe do differently? How should children and youth change their actions at home and school?

Read further and see how investments in education (financial, pedagogical, human, material, and time resources) are related to student performance, well-being, and equality in education.

The following tips can be converted and used already in early childhood education

The earlier children get oriented with great and stable learning environments and goal-oriented learning habits, the better children prosper in early childhood education, elementary school, and further than that.

How to support children's learning holistically?

According to OECD supporting students in and beyond the classroom is key.


  • Keep the learning environment safe and stable

The younger the student, the more teachers need to guide and help with their learning. According to PhD and university lecturer Aino Saarinen it is also important to create regular routines and stability in school: permanent class/group, familiar teachers, and own classrooms. Also clear, repetitive daily routine. If these factors are missing, it creates extra stress for the student's brain and blocks learning.


  • Keep parents involved in children's learning

Remember the importance of collaboration between schools and families. Higher-performing students reported that their family regularly eats meals together, spends time together, or asks them about their day. They also report a better sense of belonging and overall life satisfaction. Therefore, having parents involved in their child's learning is vital.


  • Provide additional support to children who need it

Teachers must regularly give extra help when children need it and continue teaching until the topic has been understood.


  • Ensure adequate, high-quality education staff and materials

In the PISA test, systems where more teachers were fully certified by an appropriate authority tended to score higher in mathematics. Needless to say, educated staff and high-quality learning materials affect children's learning significantly.


  • Limit the use of digital devices

Some students reported in the PISA test that in most or every mathematics lesson, they got distracted using digital devices or that they got distracted by other students using devices in class.

Limiting screen time at home is important. Too much screen time can for example affect negatively on child's sleep and raise a risk for attention problems. Make sure to discuss the effects of too much screen time with the children, so that they learn to limit the screen time themselves too.


What is PISA?

This is how the OECD describes the idea of PISA tests:

What should citizens know and be able to do? In response to that question and to the need for internationally comparable evidence on student performance, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 1997 and the first assessment was conducted in 2000.

PISA is a triennial survey of 15-year-old students around the world that assesses the extent to which they have acquired key knowledge and skills essential for full participation in social and economic life.

PISA assessments do not just ascertain whether students near the end of their compulsory education can reproduce what they have learned; they also examine how well students can extrapolate from what they have learned and apply their knowledge in unfamiliar settings, both in and outside of school.

Happy and stable learning!



OECD. Pisa 2022 results.

Helsingin Sanomat. 10.12.2023. Suomen koulu-uudistuksissa tutkimus­tiedolle viitattiin kintaalla, ja nyt se näkyy Pisa-tuloksissa.