Ukrainian teenagers aren’t the best test takers on the planet. In fact, their scores are below average in the world, according to a new study.

Assessed in math, reading and science skills, Ukrainian 15-year-olds – typically in 8th or 9th grade – showed average or below average results, according to the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) research published on Dec. 3.

The research ranks countries across three categories, the first level being the highest and the third – lowest. Ukrainian teenagers’ education skills have been placed roughly in the middle, in the second-level category across all skills.

According to PISA definitions, the second level means the schoolchildren can read and identify the main idea in a text of moderate length; their science skills are enough to recognize the correct explanation for familiar scientific phenomena and to identify, in simple cases, whether a conclusion is valid based on the data provided.

The best education, according to the study, is in China, Singapore and Hong Kong. The Philippines, the Dominican Republic and Panama scored at the lowest level.

Countries like Turkey, Italy, Belarus, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia have shown similar results to Ukraine.

PISA has tested 10 million schoolchildren around the world, including 6,000 from Ukraine. In total, Ukraine has about 400,000 15-year-olds.


Above average in ambitions

All the same, Ukrainian teenagers show healthy ambitions. Despite scoring below average on school education as a whole, Ukraine did place highly when it came to growth mindset – young Ukrainians believe that they can change and improve their intelligence.

PISA regards this as important when assessing student performance, because that positive belief influences motivation and invested effort that creates the results students are trying to achieve.

Even though performance is closely associated with expectations of further education, three out of four low performing students in Ukraine reported they still held ambitious expectations about their future education.

Only in a few countries, Ukraine being one of them, did students’ expectations of future education align with their academic performance.

When it comes to other future career expectations,the research shows that there was a gender gap in terms of choosing a profession: only 3% of girls reported that they want to work in tech-related occupations, compared with 15% of boys.

This is PISA’s 7th round of assessments since its founding in 2000. The organization conducts its research in member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). PISA’s idea is to provide information to educators and policymakers so they can make more informed decisions in the education system.

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