Background

The Royal Government of Bhutan accords highest priority to education sector as the country’s quality of health, prosperity, happiness and progression hinges on the quality of its education.  Towards this effect, the Ministry of Education has taken several reform initiatives to ensure that there are improvements in access, equity and system efficiencies to improve the quality of education in the country. The reform initiatives are primarily targeted at improving the school systems, curriculum and the competencies of the teachers.

The education reform initiatives are implemented as per the strategic direction of the aspirational document – Bhutan Education Blueprint 2014-2024, which is a ten-year strategic plan document for the Ministry of Education. The Blueprint recommends several key strategies and interventions to improve access, equity, system efficiency and the overall quality of education. One of the major recommendations is to partake in international benchmarking systems such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Every three years, some 80 countries and economies collaborate to compare how well their school systems prepare young people for life and work. The framework for these comparisons is an international assessment of the knowledge and skills of 15-year-old students known as PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment. PISA does not just examine whether students have learned what they were taught, but also assesses whether students can creatively and critically use what they know. While such international comparisons are never easy or perfect, they show what is possible in education, they help governments to see themselves in comparison to the education opportunities and results delivered by other education systems, and they help governments to build effective policies and partnerships for improving learning outcomes.

Across the world, policy makers are using PISA findings to:

  • Gauge the knowledge and skills of students in their own country in comparison with those of other participating countries.
  • Establish benchmarks for educational improvement, for example, in terms of the mean scores achieved by other countries or their capacity to provide high levels of equity in educational outcomes and opportunities.
  • Understand opportunities and challenges for their education systems.

This function of PISA is now of global significance in light of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Goal 4 (Education) in 2015. The Education SDG includes a target and indicator that is focused on learning outcomes at the end of lower secondary education, in particular that all young people achieve at least a minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics. PISA allows the identification of social, cultural, economic and educational factors that are associated with student performance.