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Creativity breeds innovation – Estonian students ranked Europe’s top outside-the-box thinkers: PISA report

Out of 64 countries, Estonian students ranked 1st in Europe and 5th-8th in the world according to the PISA 2022 Creative Thinking test.

Estonia’s education quality has long been a high performer in PISA test results, leading Europe with top mathematics, science, and reading rankings.

Now, newly published PISA results show that Estonian students shine across the board.

As part of the larger PISA study, the Creative Test measured 15-year-old students’ creative thinking for the first time. For the purposes of the study, creative thinking was defined as the capacity to produce diverse and original ideas and evaluate and improve upon others’ ideas. Estonian students ranked 1st in Europe and 5th-8th in the world, excelling particularly in written and visual self-expression and scientific problem-solving, with slightly lower results in social problem-solving.

According to Liina Põld, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Education and Research, there is reason to be proud of both the students and the Estonian education system. “In addition to the excellent results of the main PISA study, the Creative Thinking results show that our young people possess strong problem-solving skills alongside their subject-specific knowledge. They approach problems creatively, generate smart ideas, and propose effective solutions,” said Põld.

6,392 Estonian 8th-9th graders from 196 schools participated in the survey. The average result of Estonian students in creative thinking was 35.9 points, as compared to an OECD average of 32.7. 89% achieved at least the basic level (OECD average 78%), and 34% reached the top performer level (OECD average 27%).

Notably, while socioeconomically disadvantaged students lagged behind overall, results were fairly uniform across Estonia, with socioeconomic background being less influential than average. The indicator for Estonian students was 6.9%, compared to the OECD average of 11.6%.

Girls in Estonia scored 3.4 points higher than boys, and the researchers noted that the gender creativity gap persists across countries and economies.

Thinking creatively and adapting to new perspectives is crucial to tackling emerging challenges humanity faces today. Societies can be expected to increasingly depend on continuous innovation, and judging by these latest results, Estonia’s youth is equal to the task.

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