I hope Michael Gove reads this article

Stephen Smith's picture
Enjoyed this on the Washington Post website I figured it would go down well here
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 13/04/2011 - 12:50

PISA is a useful comparative tool and the OECD's comments on education are to be valued. However, PISA league table results have been used to promote an excessively negative picture of education in the USA and UK.

So the government's response is more testing, upping the bar, increasing the benchmark, judging schools and teachers by league table results and so on. But as this OECD blogger says:

"...standardized tests are a cornerstone of the right wing agenda... the 'dysfunctionality narrative': state schools suck and the private sector would do better. The irony here is that the 'best' PISA performace comes from Shanghai, Hong Kong, Finland, and Singapore, all of which have a long history of state-controlled education."

The blogger goes on to remind readers that in Finland, where "the national curriculum is a framework only, giving teachers considerable freedom as to materials and methodology. They are also trusted to assess their students which they do continuously. Assessment is formative and not used to judge schools."


So, Mr Gove, give all teachers more freedom. Make the national curriculum a core only - and insist that all schools follow this core. Trust teachers to assess students and let them use these assessments to develop the best teaching methods and choose the most appropriate materials for their particular students. I know it will upset some of the tabloids - but it's time to stop listening to untrained journalists and trust the professionals.

Adrian Elliott's picture
Wed, 13/04/2011 - 14:39

'However, PISA league table results have been used to promote an excessively negative picture of education in the USA and UK.'

This is absolutely true. One of the most laughable comments, a few years ago,was in the Daily Mail, which said 'We even came below Liechtenstein!' So we are to be 'compared' with a an extremely wealthy state with a population of 35,000 and all of 3 secondary schools. Margaret Brown (King's, UL) wrote a great description of the different approach to PISA in a US and a South Korean school. The Korean children were sent off to do the test to the accompaniment of a stirring speech by the head (in front of the whole school) with the school band playing. The American children went in to the hall moaning loudly because their games session had been cancelled at the last minute.
It wasn't quite like that when my school was randomly selected by the OECD IN 2003 but I did get strong complaints both from parents and pupils about the tests talking place,as they did, shortly before the pupils took their GCSEs. The strongest complaints,incidentally, came from some of the brightest pupils selected by OECD to take the test

Tokyo Nambu's picture
Wed, 13/04/2011 - 16:04

It may be the case that education in Finland has been a happy compact between state and parents, but it appears that it may cease to be so, and for a reason that will resonate with middle-class parents in British cities: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6069271

Adrian Elliott's picture
Wed, 13/04/2011 - 16:10

Much as we would love to compete with the highest performing countries like Singapore or Finland , in fairness to our schools and teachers, I think we should also look at our performance when compared with that of similar countries. I would argue that a more accurate comparison would be with large western industrial nations with numerous,socially mixed (and unequal!), urban conurbations and also a significant proportion of non-native language speakers.
We know from PISA that factors such as poverty and linguistic mix effect educational performance across the world. I've looked at our record in international tests in comparison with countries such as
US,France,Germany,Italy,Spain,Holland,Canada,Australia and we actually perform reasonably well.
All this assumes,of course (pace the Washington Post) that the tests are telling us a great deal anyway. I do sometimes wonder whether some of those who write so confidently about England 'plunging down the world league tables' even realise that the tests are based on a tiny sample from each country, rather than whole cohorts like KS2 or GCSE.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 13/04/2011 - 19:09

Where OECD PISA results are useful is comparing results within a country looking at differences in outcomes based on gender, socio-economic background and allocation of resources.

Tokyo Nambu: Finland is culturally homogenous although there are schools in Helsinki with nearly 50% immigrant pupils. However, this is changing:

"What particular challenges might the future hold for Finland’s education system? The
first is not unique to Finland – the challenge of successfully absorbing increasing numbers of children of immigrants into its schools. This is a problem many European nations have struggled with, some more successfully than others."

"Although children of immigrants only make up about 3% of Finland’s students, this percentage is growing... Until now Finland has been committed to providing immigrant children the option of continuing to study in their mother tongue and to teach all immigrant children their own language. However, this practice could be a problem going forward."

Finland recognises that there are challenges brought about by immigration. However, I see no reason why the country should want to change its education system when it has performed so well in the past.


Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.