The persistent strength of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), since its first application in 2000, has been recognized in several studies. Despite consistent criticism of the tests, from their conception to the calculation of scores, a growing number of countries joined the exam, thus increasing its validation, reinforced by the local and international media (Zhao, 2020). Addey et al. (2017) explain that, besides the economic and political international pressures and the homogenizing tendencies of globalization, joining PISA is also driven by internal motivations, either to validate local educational policies in progress or to justify the need for new reforms.


Brazil has been engaged in PISA since the first meetings for its conception in 1997 (Castro, 2016). With the announced goal of achieving PISA scores similar to those of OECD countries, Brazil developed its assessment system (SAEB), with tests in mathematics and Portuguese that have been applied in all public schools since 2005. As in other countries, large-scale assessment has generated a process of curricular narrowing, with an increase in the school workload of mathematics and Portuguese language, to the detriment of other subjects. Studies show that in several regions and schools, the teaching of mathematics is test-oriented, to reach the goals set by the governments (Hypolito & Jorge, 2020).


Although Brazil is treated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development as an exemplary case of progress induced by PISA, the score of 379 achieved in the 2022 mathematics exam is far from the target of 473 set by the National Congress in 2014, and even lower than the level of 386 celebrated in 2012. In all applications before 2022, more than 40% of the students who participated in the mathematics literacy test were classified below level 1, and, therefore, their skills were not even evaluated. These scores raise questions about the adequacy of the mathematics tests to assess the knowledge and skills of Brazilian students.


Using normative documents and the proceedings of meetings promoted by the Brazilian Mathematics Education Society since the 1990s as sources, we intend to retrace the debates on large-scale assessments at these events and how the PISA tests have been evaluated and interpreted by the Brazilian community of mathematics educators in the face of the implemented educational policies.



Addey, C., Sellar, S., Steiner-Khamsi, G., Lingard, B. & Verger, A. (2017). The rise of international large-scale assessments and rationales for participation. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 47(3), pp. 434–452.

Castro, M.H.G. (2016). O Saeb e a Agenda de Reformas Educacionais: 1995–2002. Em Aberto, Brasília, 29(96), pp. 85–98.

Hypolito, Á.M. & Jorge, T.A. (2020). OCDE, PISA e Avaliação em Larga Escala no Brasil: Algumas implicações. Sisyphus: Journal of Education, 8(1), pp. 10–27.

Zhao, Y. (2020). Two decades of havoc: A synthesis of criticism against PISA. Journal of Educational Change, 21, pp. 245–266.