Is math less creative than science

The social situation in Germany

In PISA-2018, the performance of students in Germany in the fields of mathematics and science was above the OECD average. However, the gap to the front runners remains large. In addition, performance in mathematics and natural sciences was worse in 2018 than in 2015 and worse than in 2012 in 2015. Around a fifth of 15-year-olds in Germany can be described as underperforming. On the other hand, around 13 percent achieved one of the two highest proficiency levels in mathematics and around 10 percent in science (OECD averages 11 and 7 percent, respectively).


The OECD PISA study measures literacy, mathematics and science skills. PISA does not ask for factual knowledge, but tests whether the participants can apply their knowledge and link information in a meaningful way.

The performance of 15-year-old students in Germany is above the OECD average in all three areas. However, the gap to the front runners - four Chinese provinces and Singapore - and also to some European OECD countries, such as Estonia and Finland, remains large overall. In addition, performance in mathematics and natural sciences was worse in 2018 than in 2015 and in 2015 worse than in 2012. Between 2012 and 2018, the number of Pisa points in mathematics decreased from 514 to 500 and in natural sciences from 524 to 503. The decline in performance for reading comprehension, on the other hand, is not statistically reliable (2012: 508 points / 2018: 498 points).

In 2018, around a fifth of 15-year-old schoolchildren in Germany had performance in the areas of mathematics and science below skill level 2. These 15-year-olds have problems answering mathematical or scientific questions or recognizing relationships, if not all relevant information is available and they are not instructed or the context is not familiar, i.e. the routine is missing.

On the other hand, around 13 percent of students in Germany achieved one of the two highest proficiency levels (level 5 or 6) in mathematics. On average across OECD countries, this was the case for 11 percent of students. The OECD countries with the largest share of high-performing students are the Netherlands (18 percent), Switzerland (17 percent) and Poland (16 percent). However, peak values ​​were achieved outside the OECD: in six participating countries from Asia, the values ​​were between 44 and 21 percent (Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zhejiang and South Korea).

In the natural sciences, around 10 percent of students in Germany fulfilled the requirements of proficiency level 5 or 6 (OECD average: 7 percent). These students can creatively and independently apply their science and science knowledge to a variety of situations, including those with which they are unfamiliar.

In mathematics, boys in Germany scored 7 points more than girls in PISA-2018. Across the OECD, the difference was 5 points. In the natural sciences, on the other hand, girls and boys show a similar level of performance because boys' performance has deteriorated compared to previous studies. Among the high-performing students in mathematics or the natural sciences, around a quarter of boys in Germany - but only one eighth of girls - expect to work as an engineer or scientist by the age of 30. Around a quarter of high-performing girls assume that they will later work in a health care profession. Among the high-performing boys, this is the case for less than a tenth. After all, only 7 percent of boys and 1 percent of girls believe that they will later work in the information and communication technology sector.

Socio-economic status is an influential factor in performance in math and science in all PISA-participating countries: socio-economically weaker students perform well behind privileged students. A high proportion of socio-economically disadvantaged students can be found among students with a migration background - in PISA-2018 it was around half in Germany. The proportion of schoolchildren with a migration background (here: both parents born abroad) increased in Germany from 18 to 22 percent between 2009 and 2018.

According to the school management in Germany, two further factors for the decline in performance in the fields of mathematics and natural sciences are an above-average lack of material resources and personnel - the latter especially in schools that have a high proportion of socio-economically disadvantaged students.

Data Source

OECD: PISA 2018 results - country note Germany; PISA 2018: Basic Education in International Comparison (Eds: Kristina Reiss, Mirjam Weis, Eckhard Klieme, Olaf Köller)

Terms, methodological notes or reading aids

Information on the subject PISA-2018: Reading Literacy you'll find here...

Information on the subject PISA-2018: Learning Environment and Wellbeing you'll find here...

PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) is an international comparative school performance study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development - OECD). The study has taken place every three years since 2000. It primarily determines the extent to which pupils have acquired skills in reading, mathematics and science by the age of 15. But the school climate, the well-being of the pupils and the influence of social origin, gender and migration background on the performance level are also recorded.

Internationally, the data was collected from more than 600,000 pupils in almost 22,000 schools. There are those Spot checks representative for the 15-year-olds of the respective country. In Germany, a total of 5,451 students from all types of schools took part in the 2018 PISA test at 223 schools. The sample is also representative for Germany, but does not allow for generalizable comparisons between the federal states.

PISA ranks the participating countries according to their performance in reading, math and science. There is no ranking that summarizes all three areas. In the first PISA study in 2000, the OECD mean was set at 500. However, the OECD mean value in the later surveys is no longer exactly 500, but has changed due to a different behavior of the participants or the increase in OECD countries. Since PISA 2000 Skill levels Are defined. The 2018 PISA study differentiates between six proficiency levels for mathematical competence (1 to 6) and seven for scientific competence (1a / b, 2 to 6). See if necessary: PISA 2018 - Basic Education in International Comparison

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