“International comparisons can be instructive if used properly - but, on this too, England is lagging behind,” reported the TES
. “The greatest danger is when international evidence is used to fit ideological positions”.
This site is full of examples of the Government distorting data and cherry-picking quotes from research, especially when it comes from the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), to match its ideological position and push forward its educational policies. At the same time the Government ignores most of the useful conclusions that the OECD makes. Nick Gibb gave a masterclass in the uses and abuses of OECD data in a speech to the Reform-AQA conference
Once again Mr Gibb used the discounted OECD 2000 UK figures to say that the UK had dropped down PISA international rankings. He knows the OECD
has said these figures should not be used for comparison. Of course, he didn’t mention the year 2000 but these were the figures he used.
He boasted about how floor standards had been raised as if the lifting the bar is enough to increase exam grades. But Mr Gibb has ignored OECD comments about the undue emphasis on test scores in England and how this could lead to teaching to the test and a downgrading in skills that can’t be easily measured (OECD Economic Survey UK 2011).
Mr Gibb rightly deplored the poor performance of UK disadvantaged pupils but didn’t mention that these pupils could best be helped by following OECD suggestions: spending more time teaching a subject and using appropriate teaching methods. Instead, Mr Gibb cited the poor performance of disadvantaged pupils as being the driver of the Government’s “radical reforms”. These include free schools and academy conversions but the OECD, while agreeing that this policy could increase user choice, said the strategy should be closely monitored in case it further disadvantages the already disadvantaged. Again, the Government ignores this caveat.
Mr Gibb talked about the importance of high-quality teachers and teacher training. But he didn’t say that the Government allows free schools to employ unqualified teachers (so it can’t be that important, can it?). And Mr Gibb’s assertion that “research overwhelmingly shows that the most effective method of teaching children to read is systematic synthetic phonics” draw this response from Professor Colin Richards
“Following their specialist training ("Inspectors will be trained to spot classroom extremists", 10 June), will inspectors be able to distinguish between would-be jihadi teachers promoting terrorism and wide-eyed extremist teachers promoting synthetic phonics? Once spotted by a vigilant Ofsted team, will both Ayman al-Zawahiri and Nick Gibb be banned from English classrooms?”
I’ll second that and add Mr Gove to the list.