Every 3 years, the OECD conducts a series of professional tests to measure the competence of 15-year olds around the world. This week, they've published the latest results from testing 470,000 people in 65 countries, in reading, maths and science.
Here is a table of the top performers:
As you can see, the top performance in the world is from the Shanghai province of China, and next come South Korea and Finland. The two largest countries where SAP employs people - Germany and the United States - do not get anywhere near the top.
SAP and SAP users do not of course recruit 15-year olds. But if we and others in the IT industry want to have a strong industry in the future, we need to be able to recruit competent people. And the 15-year olds of today are our new recruits tomorrow. We talk a lot about sustainability, mostly meaning resources and energy, but we also need to have sustainability of people.
SAP has employees in 120 countries and a very global culture, so I'm sure it can if it needs move operations around and remain successful. I am not suggesting that Germany and US and other places including my home country of the United Kingdom should be better than South Korea or Finland, but could they not be as good?
SAP and most of us in the IT industry want to recruit high performers. The graph below shows the percentage of high achievers in mathematics worldwide, showing the top two levels of a six level analysis by OECD:
This table seems particularly significant to me if companies are looking to employ the best people.
For more information on the PISA test results, see the results section on the OECD website.
I'm an assessment professional and it's great to see such an impressive set of test results. And also to see politicians and others seem to appreciate the value of the results. For a more assessment-orientated take on the results, see my blog entry on the Questionmark site which looks at some of the reasons why some countries do better than others - including by offering good quality assessments.
I think there's also a lesson here for all of us. Find out the facts and measure our performance. Germany, the US, the UK seem successful, vibrant countries - three of the centers of the knowledge economy. But if our 15-year olds are not as strong, our future will not be as strong.
There may well be parallels in our organizations that assessments or other ways of measuring things could our organization realize the present and improve the future.
PS To help answer comments, here is the rest of the table above for the countries lower down the table: