Comparison of Students’ Math Achievement in Two Nordic Countries: Multi-level Analysis of PISA Results

Young Sik Seo, Taeyoung Kim


The present study was aimed to investigate whether Finnish and Danish students’ math achievement differed and which student-level factors, if any, explained the achievement gaps and whether teacher participation in decision making and teacher morale, among the school-level factors, explained the achievement gaps in Finland and Denmark. To this end, this study used both student- and school-level datasets of two countries from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012 study and employed hierarchical linear models (HLM) – a fully unconditional, a partially unconditional, and a fully conditional model to address the hierarchical structure of research units and importance of predictors of math achievement at each level. Results indicated that Finnish students outperformed Danish peers in math achievement and that between-school homogeneity and gender equity were more salient in Finland than in Denmark. However, the findings of HLM showed that neither teacher participation in decision making nor teacher morale was associated with student math achievement in Finland and Denmark. The findings indicated that neither teacher participation in decision making nor teacher morale translated directly into improved student achievement among Finnish and Danish 15-year-old students, when adjusting for various student and school-level factors. Implications and future studies related to database linking and potential mechanisms, such as school principals’ leadership traits and practices, in the relationships between teacher participation in decision making, teacher morale, and student achievement were briefly discussed.

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Journal of Curriculum and Teaching ISSN 1927-2677 (Print) ISSN 1927-2685 (Online)  Email:

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