Equipping young people with the skills to achieve their full potential, participate in an increasingly interconnected global economy, and ultimately convert better jobs into better lives is a central preoccupation of policy makers around the world. The PISA 2012 report highlights some of the results that are especially relevant to attain excellence in education and shows how skills can help improve personal outcomes, reinforce the resilience of local communities, and ultimately strengthen the social tissue of our economies.

“What is important for citizens to know and be able to do?” That is the question that underlies the world’s global metric for quality, equity and efficiency in school education known as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA assesses the extent to which 15-year-old students have acquired key knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. The assessment, which focuses on reading, mathematics, science and problem-solving, does not just ascertain whether students can reproduce what they have learned; it also examines how well they can extrapolate from what they have learned and apply that knowledge in unfamiliar settings, both in and outside of school. This approach reflects the fact that modern societies reward individuals not for what they know, but for what they can do with what they know.

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