Humza Yousaf was urged to apologise for "destroying our once leading education system" during a difficult question time for the First Minister. 

Douglas Ross, Anas Sarwar and Alex Cole-Hamilton all pushed the SNP leader on this week's Pisa results which showed a decline in maths, science and reading

The first international comparison of the education system in five years showed that reading scores have fallen by 11 points since 2018 while science scores declined by 7 points. 

In maths, average scores have dropped by 18 points.

READ MORE: PISA 2022: A panicked and political response won't help

Mr Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, asked Mr Yousaf to "finally admit that the SNP's record on schools is a national disgrace".

The First Minister said the government accepted the Pisa results "were not good enough even considering the impact of the pandemic".

He said Jenny Gilruth, the Education Secretary would update MSPs on the government's response  to the figures next week.

However, Mr Yousaf said it was "simply untrue" to suggest that the entire Scottish education system was "completely failing".

He said official statistics showed a fall in the attainment gap at primary school on both numeracy and literacy, while the number of passes at national five was at its highest level in an exam year since the qualification was introduced in 2014. 

In response, Mr Ross quoted Dr Keir Bloomer, one of the architects of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). 

He said that while many factors will have contributed to the decline, it "cannot be a coincidence that it has taken place during the disastrous implementation of CfE and its aftermath".

"The SNP's flawed plans have cost Scotland its international reputation for excellence in education. "They made schools less about learning.

"The SNP's curriculum doesn't value knowledge.

"They tried to save it with mountains of bureaucracy and only made it worse. Isn't it time to accept after the worst ever school results that the SNP's curriculum needs to be scrapped."

Mr Yousaf replied by reading out a list of Tory MSPs who had backed the CfE, but Mr Ross said the problem was with the implementation, which was "on the SNP's watch".

READ MORE: PISA 2022: Scotland education score dips but so does global average

Anas Sarwar said the Scottish education system had once been "the envy of the world,"

"Now because of this government, we lag behind," he added.

"In 2012, Scotland had the highest attaining students from poorer backgrounds of all four parts of the UK.

"In 2022, the most deprived in Scotland, were the lowest attending in the UK. How have the SNP allowed this to happen?"

The First Minister said the focus on "one set of data" should not lead MSPs to "dismiss the entirety of Scottish education."

"That would be unfair on the excellent job that our hard-working teachers do, but also on the hard work that pupils do day in and day out," he said.

"Our children and teachers are working flat out but they are being failed by this SNP government. Now vital support for pupils is absent and the situation is getting worse," Mr Sarwar replied. 

He pointed out that the number of children identified with additional support needs had risen from just over 36,500 in 2007 to over 240,000, but in the same period, the number of ESL teachers has fallen by over 200.

"Now, this SNP government's record and education is a litany of broken promises, closing the attainment gap, promise broken.

"Guaranteeing class sizes of 18 or under, promise broken.

"Free school meals for all primary school pupils, promise broken.

"A digital device for every pupil, promise broken.

"Year after year the SNP make promises to Scotland's children, but year after year they fail to deliver and after 16 years, there is no one else to blame.

"So will the First Minister apologise to the people of Scotland for destroying our once one leading education system?"

READ MORE: What does PISA data tell us about Scottish schools?

Mr Yousaf said he would not apologise. 

"That is exactly the type of hyperbole that I was warning members in this chamber about because we have one set of data which of course is concerning and I accept that from the opposition. 

"But Anas Sarwar asks, will, I apologise? I will not apologise for (Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Levels) results that show the biggest single-year fall in the attainment gap in primary schools in both numeracy and literacy.

"No, I won't apologise for the fact that we have more children, more young people from areas of deprivation going to university.

"No, I won't apologise for a record number of young people aged 19 who have now secured a university place this year.

"No, I won't apologise for the 94.3% of 16 to 19-year-olds that were participating in employment, education or training over the past year. 

"So yes, there are challenges. Yes, the PISA results are serious. And we will reflect on that, consider those results and come forward next week with more detail on the action we will take.

"But because of this government's actions, because of the SNP government's actions, we have more young people going into positive destinations before and that's not something that I'm going to apologise for."