I haven’t read the report
“A world-class mathematics education for all our young people” yet. It ‘s 117 pages long, but Mr Gove has commented
"As Carol and her team point out so powerfully, we are falling behind our competitors when it comes to mathematics education. British 15-year-olds' mathematics skills are now more than two whole academic years behind 15-year-olds in Shanghai and the last decade has seen us plummet down the international league tables in both maths and science.”
Regular readers will spot that Mr Gove has repeated the line “the last decade has seen us plummet…” which we know can only be upheld if the OECD 2000 figures are used, and regular readers know the OECD found these figures were flawed
and could not be used for comparison purposes.
So what else is Mr Gove saying besides trotting out discredited data? He says the achievement of UK students in Science has fallen but forgets to mention that the score is still above the OECD average. And he’s comparing Maths achievement with that of Shanghai. What he didn’t say was that Shanghai’s results were so high that there was a 38 point gap between its score and the country in second place, Singapore. Even Korea, second in the reading league tables, scored 54 points less in Maths than Shanghai’s stratospheric 600
. UK scored 54 points less than Korea, so if Mr Gove is correct about the relative gap in academic years, then high-flying Korea is one year behind Shanghai.
How did Shanghai do it? Mr Gove might be surprised to learn that Mr Schleicher
of the OECD said the success was due to moving from a system based on knowledge acquisition to one which encourages students to analyse and apply information. And the Shanghai government trusted principals and teachers to turn round failing schools by offering more autonomy. Mr Gove might think his academy conversion programme follows this blueprint, except that schools in England already have a high degree of autonomy, and academies that join chains may find they have less freedom than when under local authority control
. He might believe that Shanghai teachers’ high expectations match his “no excuses” formula, except that Shanghai teachers are expected to provide a high level of support when required, something that might not happen if English schools increasingly rely on streaming. But Mr Gove misses what Schleicher thinks is most impressive about Shanghai schools: they focus on collaborative and creative learning, and teachers motivate pupils to learn for themselves
OECD* has already warned that the excess emphasis on test results is having a negative effect on English education and risks neglecting non-cognitive skills such as collaborative learning. High results from Shanghai demonstrate that a shift from force-feeding knowledge and information to student-centred learning has a positive effect on pupils’ achievement, yet Mr Gove is again ignoring data which does not fit his pre-conceived ideas while at the same time continuing to misrepresent data to promote his own ideology.
* pp 100-102 “Reforming Education in England” in the OECD Economic Survey UK 2011 is not freely available on the internet but details of how to obtain the document are here