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IAP NEWS UPDATE June 23rd – July 5th 2012

Publication: BBC News Title: Bright pupils from poor backgrounds lag two years behind rich Website:

Dr John Jerrim of the Institute of Education analysed reading results of able teenagers in 23 countries.

His findings suggest the gap between bright rich and poor children in England and Scotland is twice that of most other countries.

He called for action to help clever children from poor homes succeed.

Analysis of international reading skills statistics from 2009 showed the gap between the highest scoring rich and poor students was two-and-a-half years in England and two-and-three-quarter years in Scotland.

These gaps are more than twice as wide as in Germany, Finland and Iceland where the richest are ahead by about a year.

Labourers and lawyers Overall, England and Scotland had bigger skills gaps than 19 and 22 other nations respectively.

The biggest gaps were in New Zealand and the United States.

Dr Jerrim used data from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study, which is taken by 15-year-olds in developed countries every three years.

Writing in a special edition of the journal Fiscal Studies, Dr Jerrim said socio-economic inequalities in educational achievement may have declined in England and Scotland over the past decade but they were still higher than in many other countries.

Dr Jerrim said he had essentially been comparing the reading scores of the children of labourers and those of lawyers and doctors and argued that it was vital to narrow the gap.

"Education policy over the last decade has focused considerable attention on improving the attainment of less able children from poor backgrounds with some success.

"Now policy makers must turn their attention to reducing inequalities in educational achievement amongst the brightest children in society, to ensure that those from disadvantaged families are not left behind," Dr Jerrim said.

He added that the findings had important implications for policies to widen access to elite universities and the professions.

And he argued that the current focus on bursaries and internships did not go far enough.

The report suggests that it is important to identify high-potential children from poor backgrounds as early as possible and to ensure they receive sustained support throughout their school careers.

It also notes that schemes to raise academically able pupils' aspirations during secondary school may be the key to raising their later attainment.

A spokeswoman from England's Department for Education commented: "For too long, children from the poorest backgrounds have been left with the worst schools.

"That's why we have introduced the pupil premium to ensure schools are able to offer extra support to the poorest children.

"We are also transforming the worst performing schools, including primaries for the first time, with new leadership as academies and we have introduced systematic phonics to every school so that every child gets the best possible start in learning to read and write."

Publication: TED blog Title: Using data to build better education systems: Andreas Schleicher at TEDGlobal 2012 Website:


“Learning is not a place, it’s an activity,” says Andreas Schleicher. He heads up the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, also known as PISA, and he’s here to make the case that international comparisons of education systems can help to raise the global bar for students and learning.

First, some history, and a needed lesson for the Americans in the audience. Whereas in the 1960s the United States was number one in international education, some countries in the world had caught up by the 1970s, even more by the 1980s … and the trendline hasn’t shifted since. Now, it’s countries such as Korea that are showing what’s possible in education. ”Two generations ago, Korea had the standard of living of Afghanistan,” says Schleicher. “Today every young Korean person finishes high school.”

One of the issues in measuring education is to think about the metrics for success. These days, that isn’t simply a question of who gets what degree. What’s needed is skills that will be useful after

formal education has finished. “Look at the toxic mix of graduates looking for jobs but employers telling us they can’t find people with skills they need,” Schleicher says. “That tells us that better degrees don’t necessarily translate to better skills, jobs, lives. At PISA we work to change this. We want to test if students can extrapolate from what they know and apply their knowledge in new situations.”

In 2009, PISA measured 74 education systems, and discovered some stark statistics. “There’s a gap of three years between a 15-year-old in Shanghai and a 15-year-old in Chile,” he says. (In fact, the gap is up to seven years between some countries.) These are stark figures, and people in the audience are clearly taking it all in.

As you might expect, PISA doesn’t just look at results; it also looked at the wider picture of culture, counting issues such as equity within society and examining how much of a factor a child’s background might be in the quality of her education. Sometimes background has a huge impact; sometimes it doesn’t. But what’s clear is that no country can afford to have both poor performance and large social disparities. So here’s the question that so many ask: “Is it better to have better performance and disparity? Or accept equity and mediocrity?” As Schleicher shows, it’s a false choice. In fact, a lot of countries combine excellence and equity. Countries such as China, Korea and Finland now provide excellence for all their students, from all backgrounds — and provide an important lesson for other countries trying to challenge the paradigm of education as a way of simply sorting people.

Schleicher also shows that it’s not simply a question of throwing money at the problem. How the money is spent is more important. He contrasts South Korea and Luxemburg. South Korea spends a lot on attracting teachers, on long school days, and on teachers’ professional development. To afford this, they also have large, less expensive classes. Luxemburg spends the same amount as Korea, but in the small European nation, parents and policymakers like small classes. So they’ve invested in small class sizes, which is expensive, and that means teachers are not paid particularly well; students do not have long hours of learning; teachers have no time to do anything but teach.

Since 2000, countries have invested 35% more on education. Are we that much better? “The bitter truth is, not in many countries,” says Schleicher. Again, this is about more than just money; it’s about the system. Schleicher’s home country of Germany did poorly in 2000, prompting soulsearching public debate. As a result, the federal government raised investment in education and worked to decrease social disadvantage for immigrants. “This wasn’t just about optimizing existing policies. Data transformed some of the beliefs underlying German education,” he says. Years later, the changes are paying off.

So what can we learn from those who achieve high levels of equity and performance? Can what works in one context provide a moral elsewhere? “You can’t copy and paste education systems wholesale, but there are a range of shared factors,” Scheicher acknowledges. “The test of truth is how education weighs against other priorities. How do you pay teachers? Would you rather your child be a teacher or lawyer? How does the media talk about teachers? We’ve learned that in highperformance systems, the leaders have caused citizens to make choices that value education.”

What is key: A belief that all children are capable of success. In Japan, in Finland, parents expect every student to succeed, and that expectation influences the children’s behavior. High performers on PISA also personalize learning opportunities and share clear standards so that every student understands what’s required for them. Allowing teachers to have autonomy to understand what needs to be taught — and empowering them to teach it in their own way — helps enormously. “The past was about delivered wisdom,” says Schleicher. “Now it’s about enabling user-generated wisdom.”

Investing in teachers themselves is perhaps most critical of all. The progress and growth of the educators themselves matters, and it’s crucial to create helpful, supportive environments in which they continue to learn. High-performing countries have systems that allow teachers to innovate and develop pedagogic practices, looking past test results and outwards toward life in the world at large.

Perhaps most impressive of all Schleicher’s stats is this one: Within high-performing countries, there is only 5% variation between schools. “Every school succeeds,” he says. “Success is systemic.”

There are limits to the research, Scheicher acknowledges. PISA can’t tell countries what to do; but it can show them what everyone else is doing — and show other policymakers what’s possible in education. “It has taken away excuses from those who are complacent, and set meaningful targets and measurable goals to help every child, every teacher, every school, and every principal,” he concludes. “The sky is the limit.”

Country-Specific Education Articles

Publication: The Scotsman Title: Educators at bottom of class Author: Tom Miers Website:

SCOTTISH education is costing more and more for less and less success, to resounding silence from those who should care most.

Imagine a business where investment rises by 50 per cent but output stays the same. With each passing year global competitiveness slips further. A nearby rival firm is pulling ahead with a product that costs 10 per cent less. The manager gets the sack, right? Or at least apologises to shareholders and customers? And promises to find out what’s going wrong and to fix it? Not if the business concerned is Scotland’s state education system.

Last week the Commission on School Reform published its interim report on Scottish education. The CSR was set up by two think-tanks, Reform Scotland and the Centre for Scottish Public Policy, to assess the quality of Scottish schools and suggest ways of improving them.

Chaired by the respected educationalist Keir Bloomer, the commission certainly pulled its punches, issuing a polite press release claiming that we had one of the world’s “higher- achieving systems”, although its position has been “slipping” in recent years.

Yet, read the report closely and the evidence it draws upon is damning. Scotland has taken part in three major international surveys of pupil performance in recent years. In two of these, Timms (which measured Maths and Science aptitude) and Pirls (literacy) Scotland did badly compared to other developed countries.

I say “did”, because the Scottish Government has withdrawn from these studies. The only survey recognised by the Scottish Government as a comparison with other systems is the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study, which measures pupil aptitude every

three years. No surprise, it’s the only one Scotland does quite well in although, as the CSR said, performance has been “slipping” of late.

Pisa is a useful study, but reliance on one piece of evidence is asking for self-deception. As the CSR report pointed out, the Scottish Government is already adjusting the school curriculum to match the methodology used in Pisa. Like all tests, it is suited to a certain kind of student, and can be manipulated.

Pisa measures the life skills of children (including those from private schools), rather than their schooling, so it’s actually not so much a judgment on state education as on preparedness for a certain interpretation of modern life. This brings its own problems. It’s very noticeable, for example, that all the English-speaking countries in the survey do well. Given what we know about the productivity of the younger members of our workforce, are we really to believe that our children are better prepared in every respect than those of France, for example?

The most comprehensive evidence of pupil performance is exam results. But the Scottish Government refuses to compare results here with other jurisdictions in the UK, despite a widely accepted scale of equivalence between the different exam systems that is used by universities and employers to assess applicants.

Fortunately, its statisticians do collect the data, and from this we can see that English pupils have now overtaken Scots ones, despite schools south of the Border receiving 10 per cent less funding. Again, as with the surveys, Scots performance has flat-lined, despite a 50 per cent increase in spending since devolution.

Not only do Scottish ministers assert that the two exams systems not comparable, but that in England “grade inflation” – the dumbing down of exam standards – means that improvement there is illusory. It is disappointing to see this claim repeated in the CSR report, despite the fact that no attempt has been made in Scotland to measure grade inflation. Our exams could be dumbed down more, less, or about the same as those in England, we just don’t know.

The insouciance with which this issue is treated is shocking. If there really is “grade inflation” in England, but not in Scotland, then this puts our pupils at a major disadvantage because English grades are being valued artificially highly. We should be busting a gut to get to the bottom of this issue, not burying the figures.

What is clear from exam results, as from other surveys of literacy and numeracy, is that educational performance is fundamentally linked to a child’s social and economic background.

The gold standard used by many educationalists is the proportion of students who get five decent grades (Standard Grade 1-3 or equivalent) at the end of compulsory education including the crucial subjects of English and maths. Again, this data is reluctantly collected but not published by the Scottish Government. It shows a great variation in outcomes. In East Dunbartonshire, 70 per cent of pupils get the five grades, but in Glasgow, shockingly, just 40 per cent do.

In other words, state education in Scotland may be comprehensive, but it is far from equal. Indeed, it seems to have almost no effect in curing the ills of social deprivation despite the uniform approach to provision. If your parents are poor, the chances are you’ll stay poor because your school won’t educate you properly.

Nowhere is the lack of focus on results more evident than when it comes to money. Education is the Scottish Government’s second biggest area of expenditure. We now spend nearly £8 billion annually on education. This figure has increased from about £5.3bn in 2003. But as the evidence shows, all that extra money has had no effect on performance. What’s happened to it all? Most of it appears to have been spent on increased salaries for teachers and new buildings for schools. But in most other walks of life you don’t spend more money unless you expect to get something for it. Education isn’t about buildings, it’s about teaching children.

So that’s £2.5bn a year being wasted, largely. The opportunity cost of this is immense. The figure is more than enough to scrap council tax altogether, for example, bringing untold relief to hundreds of thousands of families and creating jobs, growth and prosperity up and down the land. But no, nobody is held to account, no-one seems to care where the money has gone and whether it was wisely spent.

Commenting on his report, Keir Bloomer said that “we should not delude ourselves about our position or allow ourselves to be complacent”. And yet complacency, on a massive scale, is what infects the educational establishment and the body politic in Scotland.

What is particularly disappointing is the cross-party omerta on the subject. When the SNP, supposedly a revolutionary movement, finally came to power in 2007, after 80 years in the political

wilderness, you would have expected some sort of change, some sort of new thinking. And yet immediately on taking office SNP ministers started parroting the same excuses, wasting the same money, hiding the same evidence that their predecessors had done.

Part of the problem is that, in education, the state has a captive customer. Few Scots have the means or opportunity to try schooling elsewhere and so few are aware of what else can be done.

But we should not let the state use this power it has over us to stifle debate. Whatever you think of the education system in England, at least there is a real, heated argument about it. In Scotland, by contrast, we suppress evidence instead of trying to analyse it and castigate critics for “doing Scotland down”. It’s all too cosy, too complacent and too small.

If there’s no room for debate, there’s no room for change, and we’ll fall ever further behind while the world passes us by.

IAP News_July5_2012