§ Alan Johnson
International comparisons of pupil attainment such as the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) offer insights into how the outcomes of our education system compare with those of other countries. PISA, which in 2000 focused on "reading literacy" of 15-year-olds, allows us to compare pupils at the end of compulsory schooling. Together with PISA, other international comparisons studies, such as the IEA's Progress in International Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), with their different age cohorts and subject content, help give us an objective picture of performance across the primary and secondary sectors in relation to our world partners and competitors, complementing the data coming out of our own national assessments. It seems clear that we are not alone in finding these studies valuable, given the large number of countries routinely taking part in them.