Students in Norway were ranked 22nd out of the 34 rich-world OECD countries in both maths and science in the 2012 Pisa survey, showing a slight relative decline since 2009, when the last survey was published.
Norwegian education minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen said: "The new PISA survey shows that we have a science problem in Norway. It worries me greatly. The results are simply not good enough."
"It surprises me that the results are so bad," said Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg, before heaping the blame on the previous Labour-led government. "Norway is a technological nation, and the basis for a technological nation is that we must have high academic expertise. That is not the case."
Asian countries dominated the rankings, taking the first eight places in the ranking for maths, the first four for science (with Finland, an established top performer in the survey, taking fifth place), and the first five for reading (with Finland again coming in at sixth place).
Among the Nordic countries, came fourth in maths, behind Denmark, Finland and Iceland, but ahead of Sweden. It came third in science after Finland and Denmark, but ahead of Sweden and Iceland. In reading, it performed second among the Nordics after Finland.
Researchers from the OECD tested more than 510,000 students across 65 countries (and regions in the case of Shanghai and Hong Kong) on their skills in maths, reading and science.
“With high levels of youth unemployment, rising inequality and a pressing need to boost growth in many countries, it’s more urgent than ever that young people learn the skills they need to succeed,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said at the launch of the survey in Washington DC.
"Young people are the future, so every country must do everything it can to improve its education system and the prospects of future generations.”