Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Top of the class

Out of the five best performing education systems in the world, four are in Asia. Out of the top ten, seven are in the Asia Pacific region. The OECD collects data on reading, maths and science scores on a standardised basis. Top of the table is Shanghai, China, with top places for each. They are followed by South Korea, Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore. 

The top ten is completed by Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and the Netherlands. Britain, France, Germany and the US are at the bottom of the OECD’s table of 18 countries. In a special report for the Economist, four factors are highlighted as contributing most heavily to school success: decentralisation; focusing on underachieving students, high standards for teachers and a choice for schools. 

Such issues are already forming the basis for the debate in the UK, with the championing of free schools and the resulting decentralisation that this brings. It may prove a useful test of whether these ideas deliver results in practice. One worrying factor is Sweden’s surprise poor showing in the tests – much of the free school agenda is based on Swedish and American models.

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