Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)
Another pool of data that can be used to test the importance of a child’s socio-economic background is the OECD’s PISA database. For the six Latin American countries included in PISA, background factors are generally more important than the OECD average (Figure 3.7). Chile in particular presents a very high correlation between students’ performance in science tests and their socio-economic background. The exception is Colombia.25
Figure 3.7. Contribution of economic, social and cultural background to PISA test performance
The PISA data point therefore in a similar direction to the indicators based on Latinobarómetro surveys: social mobility in Latin America is considerably lower than in the average OECD country. The apparent discrepancies with the analysis based on SMI indices, notably in the case of Chile, are the result of differences in the underlying educational measures. While the SMI index improves when the quantity of education expands (as well as when completion rates increase), PISA scores measure cognitive skills – more linked to the quality of education students receive. Given that most reforms during the 1990s focused on expanding coverage and reducing repetition rates, it is no surprise to observe an improvement in mobility indices that are based on these measures. Indicators based on quality, on the other hand, show that the quality of education a child receives in any of the six Latin American countries is still very much linked to his/her socio-economic background.