PISA 2018 Results: Philippines Ranks Lowest in Reading

For the first time, since the adoption of the new K to 12 curriculum, the Philippines participated in an international assessment of basic education. The Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA is a triennial survey of 15-year-old students around the world in three subjects: reading, mathematics and science. The results are dismal for the Philippines. Students in the Philippines scored lowest in reading, and second lowest in both mathematics and science. 15-year old students are near the end of junior high school in the Philippines, demonstrating convincingly that Philippine basic education has serious problems in the early years.

The following are the key findings:

  • Fifteen-year-old students in the Philippines scored lower in reading, mathematics and science than those in most of the countries and economies that participated in PISA 2018. 
  • Over 80% of students in the Philippines did not reach a minimum level of proficiency in reading, which is one of the largest shares of low performers amongst all PISA-participating countries and economies.  
  • Expenditure per student in the Philippines was the lowest amongst all PISA-participating countries/economies – and 90% lower than the OECD average. 
  • Only 68% of 15-year-olds in the Philippines were covered by the PISA sample. In most countries, low coverage can be mainly attributed to 15-year-olds who were no longer enrolled in school or who had been held back in primary school.  
  • Some 94% of 15-year-old students in the Philippines speak a language other than the test language (i.e. English) at home most of the time. This was the second highest percentage amongst all PISA-participating countries/economies. The highest was observed in Lebanon, where 98% of students do not speak the language of instruction at home. 
  • Socio-economically advantaged students outperformed disadvantaged students in reading by 88 score points in the Philippines, which is similar to the average difference between the two groups (89 score points) across OECD countries.  
  • There was a significant gender gap in reading in favour of girls (27 score points), which is similar to the average across OECD countries (30 score points). Girls also outperformed boys in mathematics by 12 score points unlike the average across OECD countries, where boys outperformed girls by 5 score points. Boys and girls in the Philippines performed similarly in science. 
  • Ensuring an inclusive environment at school is even more important in the Philippines than across OECD countries: every unit increase in the index of sense of belonging at school was associated with an increase of more than 20 score points in reading, compared to the OECD average of 4 score points. However, in the Philippines, 65% of students reported being bullied at least a few times a month, compared to 23% on average across OECD countries; 26% of students (OECD average: 16%) agreed or strongly agreed that they feel lonely at school; and 35% (OECD average: 26%) reported that, in every or most language-of-instruction lessons, their teacher has to wait a long time for students to quiet down. At the same time, the level of parental involvement in school activities is higher than in OECD countries, on average. 
  • A majority of students in the Philippines expressed a fear of failure. Some 72% agreed or strongly agreed that, when they fail, they worry about what others think of them (OECD average: 56% of students). In almost every education system, including in the Philippines, girls expressed greater fear of failure than boys, and this gender gap was considerably wider amongst top-performing students. 
  • In the Philippines, 31% of students hold a growth mindset, which is one of the lowest proportions amongst PISA-participating countries and economies (OECD average: 63%). Students who do not hold a growth mindset are unlikely to make the investments in themselves that are necessary to succeed in school and in life.


  1. To begin with K -12 was implemented by aquino admin. The basis or methods of the survey conducted was not clear. As far as i know filipino students were winning big in most math/ science competions held world wide. In reading, how do you gauge reading? I would say English is our second language. English reading as well as writting was being taught as early as pre-school. And the result says we are the lowest? To me this survey was kinda mis-leading

    1. You need to know the difference between data and anecdotes.

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