UK state education is not "one of the worst" in the world

Janet Downs's picture
A report in the Telegraph said this about UK education:

“We currently live in a country where seven per cent of the population receives the best education in the world (the British private school system) but where the other 93 per cent receives (unless they’re really lucky) one of the worst.”

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) doesn’t agree with him. In the 2010 international league tables there were forty countries below the UK in a list comprising sixty-five. And the results showed that UK school children were at the OECD average in English and Maths, and above average in Science. Average may not be a pleasant place to be in the international league, but it’s hardly “one of the worst”. The Trends in Maths and Science Survey (TIMSS) 2007  showed that the scores of English pupils were among the highest (of an admittedly smaller survey than PISA). In Science, for example, the performance of year 9 pupils in England “was amongst the best in the world”.

The claim that the British independent school system provides the best education in the world doesn’t seem to be backed up by evidence. Nick Gibb in Parliament on 11 May repeated this claim and cited the OECD. But where is the OECD data that backs up this claim?

The OECD has said that across all OECD countries publicly-funded schools have a slight advantage over privately-managed ones when the socio-economic background of students and schools is accounted for. In the UK, state schools “outscore privately-managed schools by 20 score points once the socio-economic background is accounted for”.

The evidence above shows that the UK does not have one of the worst education systems in the world. And I have found no OECD evidence about the claimed superiority of the UK independent system. Why, then, do the Government and its supporters propagate the myth that the UK state education system is failing? Why is the government so keen on independent schools sponsoring academies when the evidence shows that state schools outperform privately-managed schools when socio-economic background is accounted for? Why is the Government rubbishing the state education system of its own country?

I think the Government should answer these questions.
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Fiona Millar's picture
Fri, 17/06/2011 - 11:50

I wonder how many state schools James Delingpole actually knows?

Sam's picture
Mon, 19/12/2011 - 16:29

I think this is just typical British gutter press. We as a nation are a gullible,pessimisitc lot and we generally believe everywhere must do things better. Travelling around,ive come across many people in Europe and paticulary the USA who find comments like this astounding. One woman in Italy claimed she would have rather sent her child to uni in Inida than Italy and i mentioned the UK university accomodation system and he replied 'Better than Italy's no doubt'. The Dutch systemis also renowned to be fair but two Dutch girls later told me this year an article in the Netherlands claimed thier system was the worst in Europe,i know this is total piffle. Juts ignore is what i say.the UK systems may not be perfect,but seriously,you would have to be senile or very ignorant to assume they were the worst...

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