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J.A. Cuesta-Albertos

enlarges the sample in some smaller areas (regions, provinces,. . . ) to obtain

representative data at this level also.

The result of the report is a score for each participant country (or region)

in each of the subjects considered. It is assumed that these scores describe the

level of competence of the participating countries in the associated subjects.

Every time the tests are performed, one of the three topics is selected to be

analyzed in greater depth. Mathematics was the selected one in the last report

which was released on December 3, 2013 although the study was carried out

in 2012. The goal of this section is to study the role of Spain in this report.

Moreover, we will mainly focus on the mathematical scores. The results in

Science and Reading abilities will be presented in the final part of this section




The 2012 report involved 65 countries. Three of those countries are part of

China (which did not participate in the study): Hong Kong, Macau and Shangai.

Their results were quite good (they scored 538, 561 and 613 points in Mathe-

matics respectively, obtaining the 6th, 3rd and 1st positions). However, they are

not included in this study because they are not usual independent countries and

their results cannot be compared to those of the rest of the participants.

The complete list of the participating countries with their scores appears in

the link


]. The data analyzed in this paper were downloaded from there on

May 23, 2014.

2.1. Spain in the PISA 2012 report

Although there are some dissenting voices, the general feeling seems to be

that Spain did quite badly in this report. For example, on December 3, 2013, the

newspapers El Pa´ıs and La Vanguardia, respectively, stated

“Desde 2003 los re-

sultados en matem´aticas . . . se han mantenido estables dentro de su mediocridad”



“. . . malos resultados de los alumnos espa˜noles a la hora de enfrentarse a

problemas cotidianos”.


The reason usually given to support this quite negative point of view is that

Spain scores well below the mean result of the OECD members. For instance,

El Mundo, on December 3, 2013, stated

“. . . [Espa˜na est´a] entre los pa´ıses que

se encuentran ‘significativamente debajo de la media’ de la OCDE”.


This statement is not unfounded. Table 1 contains the scores of several coun-

tries and the mean score of the OECD members in the three analyzed subjects.

Apart from Spain, the table includes the five best countries in each subject, the

three worst ones, and Italy and Portugal because those countries are perceived

as quite similar in Spain. We see that Spain is below the mean of the OECD

countries in all three subjects, but not too far from it.


Since 2003 the results in Mathematics . . . have remained stable within mediocrity.


. . . bad results of the Spanish students when dealing with daily problems.


. . . [Spain is] between those countries scoring ‘significatively below the mean’ of the OECD.