Problem solving differs from mathematics, reading, and science in that it is not a traditional school subject. Problem-solving tests assess the degree to which students can solve problems in contexts that are not confined to one discipline (such as reading, math, or science) and draw on students’ knowledge from a variety of sources. Problem solving is a more advanced skill that may be indicative of preparation for advanced degrees and ultimately a country’s innovative capacity.
Students with low-level problem-solving skills are generally not capable of drawing data from multiple sources, comparing and contrasting these data, and integrating the data into the development of a solution to a multi-faceted problem.1 These are the very skills that are increasingly necessary. New employee qualifications are focusing on communication skills, on the ability to deal with complexity, and on increased problem-solving capabilities.2
PISA is an international assessment of the skills and knowledge of 15 year olds, coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It assesses whether students approaching the end of compulsory education have acquired the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in society. In 2003, PISA tested for problem-solving skills.
1 OECD. Problem Solving for Tomorrow’s World: First Measures of Cross-Curricular Competencies from PISA 2003 (Paris: OECD, 2004), p. 47.
2 OECD. Problem Solving for Tomorrow’s World: First Measures of Cross-Curricular Competencies from PISA 2003 (Paris: OECD, 2004), p. 47.