Significantly improved PISA 2009 scores, further work needed including small schools

December 14, 2010

Assessing the Quality of Education in Bulgaria using PISA 2009

SOFIA, December 14, 2010 ― The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009 survey results released on December 7, 2010 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) were analyzed by a World Bank team of experts to further evaluate the ongoing education sector reform in Bulgaria.

Concerning results in reading, Bulgaria’s 2009 mean score rose by 27 points over the 2006 level, reaching 429 points. In absolute terms, this score ranks Bulgaria 46th among the 74 participating countries. In terms of improvements, however, Bulgaria ranks 7th out of 74 countries, i.e. being among the top improvers worldwide, with only two regional peers – Serbia and Romania – showing higher gains (41 and 28 points).

Regarding results in reading and math, EU countries on average made no progress since 2006, while Bulgaria improved its score significantly. In math, only Italy and Portugal had a larger increase, but no EU10 country improved as much as Bulgaria.

The World Bank analysis was driven by the fact that the previous round of PISA (2006) preceded the sweeping education reforms of 2007 and 2008 in Bulgaria whereby school directors were given authority over a wide range of school decisions and policies, the unified per student cost standards and the delegated school budgets were introduced. Therefore PISA 2009 results were used to provide an insight of how the system has been faring since the reform.

The World Bank analysis based on PISA 2009 data reveals that despite improvement in scores further efforts are needed to strengthen equity and education results. The analysis concludes that: 

  • Small schools have been excluded from improvements in the quality of the education system.
  • It is not clear whether linguistic minorities benefitted from the increase in the quality of education system
  • There is no evidence that the improvements are directly related to the recent school autonomy reforms, but the PISA 2009 progress shows that the education reforms are on the right track.

“Investing in quality of education is critically important. And it is a shared objective. Well educated people are the driving force for increased productivity. This in turn will accelerate convergence and higher living standards. Therefore future reform efforts should focus on improving the equity of the education system, with performance of small schools and the socially disadvantaged students singled out as a priority”, the World Bank Country Manager for Bulgaria, Markus Repnik, said.