Are we doing so badly educating our children?

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Children in the UK are among the happiest at school Children in the UK are among the happiest at school

Like many parents of school age children, I was interested in the recent report which suggested the UK’s educational performance ranks poorly alongside other countries.

Even as a journalist who has written many articles about education, I hadn’t heard of the PISA 2012 report. The tests, the Programme for International Student Assessment, have apparently become the most influential rankings in international education.

This report is the fifth of its kind and is managed by the OECD – the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – every three years. The report is based on tests taken by around 510,000 students in more than 60 countries. About 12,000 students took the test in the UK.

It looks at education standards in Europe, North and South America, Australasia, parts of the Middle East and Asia. Tunisia was the only African country which participated.

There is a league table which measures countries alongside the OECD average ‘score’. The UK ranked 26th for maths, 23rd for reading and 20th for science. To give you some context, while the UK scored 26th place in maths, it did outperform the USA, Sweden and Brazil.

Shanghai tops the league overall. It’s estimated that the city’s score in maths is the equivalent of three years’ schooling above most of the other countries.

The top places are dominated by Asian school systems, although China so far does not participate as a whole country, but is represented by cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong.

We must remember that there are huge differences between how we view education in the UK and in other countries such as in Asia or China. Children in those countries can study for very long hours and face greater parental pressure. Indeed the report says that children in the UK are among the happiest at school.

In other words this is a report which is designed to show where best practice might lie – it’s not intended to make parents or teachers feel that they are failing our children.

One interesting fact is that parents can go online and have a go at the questions – www.oecd.org/pisa/test

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