Education Dec 7 2010

Lessons from PISA

The new PISA data is out, based on tests taken by half a million 15 year olds in 70 countries. Its key findings are here. What does it tell us?

  • NOT that the performance of English pupils got worse but that we were outperformed by more nations than last time this data was collected in 2006.
  • That girls do better than boys
  • That the best school systems were the most equitable, in other words students do well regardless of their socio-economic background, and non selective. “Schools that select students based on ability early show the greatest differences in performance by socio-economic background”, states the report
  • That high performing school systems tend to prioritise teacher pay over smaller class sizes, allow schools to design curricula and establish assessment policies but don’t necessarily allow competition
  • That local autonomy and effective accountability, good student teacher relationships and prioritising teacher pay over class sizes seem to produce better results
  • That state and private schools achieve similar results, after taking account of students home backgrounds

There are lessons here; we should end all selection, which lies at the heart of our unequal school system; teachers should be well resourced and free of the sort of centralised prescription which tells them what and how to teach; the pressure of the league tables may be counter-productive.

Oh and if you are well educated, supportive, affluent parents with children in the independent sector, you are wasting your money.  According to PISA your children will do just as well in their local state school, where the teaching is probably better.


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