From its first assessment, the OECDs Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has been asking students about their motivations and dispositions towards learning, such as their enjoyment of reading and their anxiety towards mathematics.
In more recent assessments, PISA also asked students about their more general social and emotional state, including their satisfaction with life, their feelings and their fear of failure, in order to establish a more holistic appreciation of education outcomes and student wellbeing. In addition, an optional questionnaire on wellbeing was distributed as part of PISA 2018.
All of these questions connect school life with the broader ecosystem in which students live – the family, their peers, and the community – and provide information on the development of 15-year-old students.
Satisfaction with life
Across OECD countries, about two in three students reported that they are satisfied with their lives, a percentage that shrank by five percentage points between 2015 and 2018. More than 85 per cent of students reported sometimes or always feeling happy, cheerful or joyful; but about 6 per cent of students reported always feeling sad. In almost every education system, girls expressed greater fear of failure than boys, even when they outperformed boys in reading by a large margin – and this gender gap was considerably wider amongst top-performing students. Positive student wellbeing was also associated with a higher proportion of resilient students.
PISA 2018 shows that school life is closely related to the wellbeing of 15-year-old students. For instance, the three aspects of students’ lives that are more strongly associated with expressions of sadness are how satisfied students are with the way they look, with their relationships with their parents, and with school life. Ultimately, the wellbeing of students may also affect their academic performance. In this regard, PISA data show that students who were frequently bullied were more likely to have skipped school and scored lower in reading.