The results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA test) have recently been released. This comprehensive test occurs every 3 years and assesses 47,000 15 year old students Maths, Science, and Reading. Creating an accurate comparison of educational systems across the world.
Shanghai teens placed firmly at the top of the league table, with scores of 613 for Maths, 570 for reading and 580 for Science. Yet, quite embarrassingly, the UK and US are trailing far behind at 26th and 36th respectively with scores in the 400’s and low 500’s. This poses major questions for our governments as to why two of the most developed countries in the world are trailing behind in their education systems. The vast majority of the countries performing well in PISA are Asian countries, though there are claims of genetic advantage, there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims. Furthermore, the consistently high performance of Finland (whose genetic profile is almost the antithesis of the high performing Asian countries) highlights that it is about mentality and not genes. There is an appreciation for education and the drive and confidence to fulfill potential. Compare this to the mentality seen in schools in the UK, where education is a burden, students do not respect the teachers or show gratitude for the opportunities they are given. Another interesting point is that Finland does not have a spilt education system, unlike over in the UK where many areas still have Grammar schools (in which students sit exams to enter), leaving others to underperform in comprehensive schools. Furthermore unlike many other countries Finland does not impose endless strandardised testing on its students, rather they only sit on standardised test at the end of their high school career, though this may not be solely responsible to their success as in the successful Asian countries there are great numbers of standardised tests the students must tackle. Perhaps the most important difference between the successful countries and the UK and US is the teaching profession is well respected and well paid, compare this to the teaching profession in the UK where it is becoming easier to be a teacher (resulting is lower quality teach staff) and the pay being nothing less that standard. One thing is for sure, that if the UK and US want to retain their position as economic strong-grounds they need to invest time and money in improving their education systems.