2020 Vol. 1

The quality of education and certification around the world and Europe

The quality of education and certification around the world and Europe has different indicators. While the education program in some countries is lagging behind, certification management and business programs are gaining momentum. (According to PM.MBA)

Management certificates and courses are now the preferred formats

Management certificates and courses are now a preferred format for many young professionals worldwide. Project management, business management, and human resources. These are the topical topics today that beginners in the professional field are looking for. Educational research reports indicate that, at the same time, quality in universities and schools is beginning to decline.

For the seventh time since 2000, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is being held in countries and regions around the world. More than half a million 15-16 year-old students from 79 countries and regions participated in the assessment in 2018. They completed the tasks in the reading, math and science test. Some of them, including Bulgarian students, also participated in the study of their financial literacy.

At each stage of the study, one of the three main areas of measurement – reading, mathematics and the natural sciences – is leading. Similar to the 2000 and 2009 assessments, PISA 2018 focuses on student literacy.

For the first time in 2018, a computer-based assessment of students’ reading literacy was carried out worldwide.

Today’s reading practices are significantly different from reading in the 1990s, for example, when reading materials were primarily paper. The use of technology has radically changed the way people read and share information. Automating routine activities (including professions) tests people’s skills to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, as well as their ability to find and make sense of information from a variety of sources. The way information is distributed and accessed is also changing. Multiple types of reads and their media are multiplied. There is a mass transition from print to digital text. Today, computers and the Internet are the second source of information in most technologically advanced countries after television and before radio and print media.

The attitude to reading changes, as does the amount of time spent reading. Last but not least, the readership process is changing; the environment and the conditions in which we read; the goals of reading, etc. Digital reading significantly changes the role of the reader. Reading is no longer passive, but interactive, with the reader actively interacting with the text using, for example, hyperlinks and more. All this requires different knowledge and skills of working with text as well as the implementation of different reading strategies. Reading behavior is changing globally. Therefore, the reader in the digital world needs to acquire some key skills in order to cope with the flow of information and to comprehend it in depth.

What does the PISA 2018 reading test measure?

The framework and concept of the study focus on students’ skills in finding, comparing and combining information from several sources, sometimes in different formats. These are the basic operations involved in reading and learning through reading. Test tasks reproduce real situations of reading in an electronic environment, and reading texts are diverse: an online forum, a blog, a website, an excerpt from an article in an electronic newspaper or a scientific journal, and more. The computer-based survey format allows the use of various digital navigation tools – hyperlinks, menus, tabs, and more. Emphasis is placed on the use, comparison and critical reflection of information presented in several sources.

The first indicator to compare PISA students’ performance is their average score. It is formed on the basis of the individual results of all students who participated in the study in a particular country / region. Students’ average scores are presented on a scale of 500 points and a standard deviation of 100 points, developed in 2000. The average score for each country / region is analyzed against the average score for OECD students in 2018. is 487 points.

The PISA 2018 data show that the average score of Bulgarian students is 420 points – significantly (67 points) lower than the OECD average. The table shows the distribution of students by their average and by country in the field of reading literacy at PISA 2018.

According to its average result, Bulgaria is in a group with Romania, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Moldova, Montenegro, Mexico, Jordan, Malaysia, Brazil, Colombia.

How have Bulgarian students’ reading literacy performance changed over the years?
The chart below clearly shows that since 2012 there has been a steady decline in the average scores of Bulgarian students. In 2018, the decrease is 16 points compared to 2012 and 12 points compared to 2015.

Pupils’ scores are interpreted depending on which level of descriptive scale they correspond to. The scale by which PISA 2018 summarizes students’ reading skills includes several levels – below first level, first A, B and C, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth level. Each level describes the knowledge and skills required to complete the tasks at the appropriate level. The fifth and sixth level tasks are the most difficult.

Traditionally, second-level PISA is defined as a critical threshold in student achievement, ie. Second-level students have significant gaps in their preparation. The data in the following graph shows that the share of Bulgarian students from the critical threshold at the second level is significant at all stages of the study. In comparison, students in OECD countries with below-average results in 2018 are only 22.7%. On the other hand, the share of Bulgarian students with results at the highest fifth and sixth level is small, and after 2012 it has been steadily decreasing (OECD, PISA 2018 – 8.7% of students with results at fifth and sixth level).

The average math score of students in OECD Member States, against which the average scores of all participants are analyzed, is 489 points. The breakdown of students by country and the average math score is presented in the table below. The average score of Bulgarian students is 436 points, or 53 points lower than the OECD average.

According to its average mathematics score, European is in a group with Malaysia, Albania, UAE, Brunei, Romania, Montenegro. The following graph illustrates how the results of mathematics of Bulgarian students change during the different stages of PISA.

Comparison between the average mathematics scores of European students in PISA 2000, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018

How the share of Bulgarian students with the lowest (below the second level) and the highest scores (at the fifth and sixth level) in mathematics has changed is evident from the data in the following figure. The proportion of pupils with scores below the critical achievement threshold has increased by about 2 percentage points, while the proportion of pupils with excellence has remained virtually unchanged. In comparison, students in OECD countries with PISA 2018 second-level results are 28.7% and fifth- and sixth-level students are 9.4%.

Share of Bulgarian students with results below second and fifth and sixth level in mathematics in PISA 2006, 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018

Project Management, Business Management and Human Resources

Students in Europe show a strong interest in project management certification, human resources training and other business management disciplines not taught at universities. Private certification organizations, on the other hand, offer courses and certification programs around the world with free access for everyone.

Since this year, the American media has published its list of Top Project Management Certificates for 2020, the interest of students in this type of qualification is growing.

For example, the British organization which is relatively new to the market but offers advanced Agile-trained project management certification. BVOP project management certification is proving to be the choice of many young people taking the project management path.

Human Resources certification and Technical Skills

Human Resources certification comes second. Product Management courses are ranked third. Programming and design again this year are preferred activities for young people.

Natural Science

Like mathematics, the natural science average of OECD countries is 489 points. The average score of the European students is 424 points.

According to the average natural science score, Bulgaria is in one group with Brunei (Dar es Salaam), Jordan, Moldova, Thailand, Uruguay, Romania, Mexico, Qatar, Albania and Costa Rica.

The data show that compared to 2015 the average score of Bulgarian students decreased significantly in 2018 – by 22 points. Compared to the other two fields of measurement – reading and mathematics, in the field of natural sciences the most significant decrease in the results of Bulgarian students is observed.

There is also a change in the proportion of students with results below the second level and at the fifth and sixth levels of the science scale. Like other areas of measurement, we see an increase in the proportion of students with results below the critical threshold of the second level and a decrease in the proportion of students with results at the fifth and sixth levels.

Share of European students with results below the second and fifth and sixth level in natural sciences in PISA 2006, 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018

Habits and useful skills development amongst students is now available and easily accessible via multiple education programs.

The education policy in European, as in most countries around the world, aims to ensure equal access to quality education for all students, regardless of their socio-economic status. Equality in education is understood in the context of excellence. No educational system seeks a situation where all students have the same achievements, regardless of their socio-economic status, but they are low.

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The PISA 2018 results show that the difference in reading achievement of the most disadvantaged and disadvantaged Bulgarian students by socio-economic background is significantly reduced between 2009 and 2018. If we apply the OECD methodology, according to which a 30 point difference in the PISA test results are equivalent to what students learned in one school year, the difference between the students in the lowest and highest quartile groups according to the index of economic, social and cultural status c is 3.5 years in reading (for comparison, this difference was 4 years in PISA 2015). However, this is due to a significant decline in the performance of students with high socioeconomic status, while the performance of students with low socioeconomic status does not change. In practice, Bulgaria is the only country in which the gap in the performance of students from the top and bottom quartiles of the index of economic, social and cultural status narrows because they only reduce the achievements of students with high socio-economic status.

PISA 2018 data, similar to PISA 2015, once again shows that excellence and educational equality are not mutually exclusive features of education systems. An educational system is effective when both high-achieving and low-social, economic and cultural students have good achievements. PISA 2018 identifies 3 major factors contributing to the excellence of disadvantaged students: (1) support from parents and teachers, (2) positive school climate and (3) self-confidence (or formed) “attitudes to success”). In Bulgaria, the proportion of students of less socio-economic background who achieve high reading scores (at fifth and sixth levels) is one of the lowest among all countries participating in the survey in 2018 – 6%, compared to an average of 11 % for OECD.

PISA 2018 confirms the significant heterogeneity in the quality of education offered by different schools. Bulgaria is among the countries with the largest variation in reading scores between schools – 54.7%.

There is significant social and academic segregation, measured by both traditional indicators – the difference index and the isolation index. Of particular concern is academic segregation – some of the highest concentrations of low-achieving students in some schools and high-achieving students in others are registered in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria is the country where students with disadvantaged socioeconomic status are most often concentrated in schools where there are no high school graduates. This, combined with the other forms of academic segregation and the high heterogeneity in the quality characteristics of individual schools, is a prerequisite for the great difference in the results of individual groups of students and for the strong manifestation of the phenomenon of “educational poverty”.

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