The UK's education system is ranked sixth best in the developed world

(47 Posts)
dinkybinky Tue 27-Nov-12 06:20:39

The UK's education system is ranked sixth best in the developed world, according to a global league table published by education firm Pearson.

The first and second places are taken by Finland and South Korea.

The rankings combine international test results and data such as graduation rates between 2006 and 2010.

Sir Michael Barber, Pearson's chief education adviser, says successful countries give teachers a high status and have a "culture" of education.

International comparisons in education have become increasingly significant - and this latest league table is based upon a series of global test results combined with measures of education systems, such as how many people go on to university.

This composite picture puts the UK in a stronger position than the influential Pisa tests from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - which is also one of the tests included in this ranking.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20498356

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 07:04:56

The phrase 'cherry picking' springs to mind. International reports that puts the UK in a bad light are 'flawed' or are comparing apples to pears. On the other hand international reports that puts the UK in 6th place must be true smile

nooka Tue 27-Nov-12 07:16:38

The Pearson site about the study is quite interesting: thelearningcurve.pearson.com/ I'll be interested to see how this is reported n Canada (where I live now) as they are lower in these rankings than the PISA ones.

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 07:32:42

In the past when the UK was ranked low the argument here in the UK was that these type of reports favour the rote learning exam taking automations that are churned out by Asians schools. But as soon as these reports places the UK below the same Asian countries BUT above USA, Canada and Co, it's like, hey we Number 6. Hooray!

NulliusInBlurba Tue 27-Nov-12 07:37:54

I'm not sure I trust the Pearson report - which is essentially nothing more than something commercially produced by a publisher - more than the OECD PISA report, which has a solid academic basis.

Finland and South Korea are always top of PISA, so no surprises there. Interesting because they have very different techniques for success.

When the first PISA results came out (1999?) Germany collectively freaked out at being placed 20th, below countries like the Czech Republic. It's led to widespread educational reform in some rather silly ways. On the other hand, it's also led to some teachers being determined to massage the results by prepping the kids chosen to take part. And it still hasn't led to that much of an improvement! Germany came 15th on the Pearson survey, which is still pretty piss-poor for a supposedly wealthy industrial nation.

However, the point about the need for a culture that supports learning is actually pretty valid. One of the reasons Germany performs so poorly is that education is widely perceived by teachers and pupils as a play-it-dirty competition to eliminate weaklings and maintain the status quo rather than a genuine opportunity to teach all people as much as they are able to learn.

redlac Tue 27-Nov-12 07:43:06

Scotland has a different eduction system to the rest of the UK so how can it be included as UK?

mummytime Tue 27-Nov-12 07:45:14

Well it agree with a lot of tables that put Finland and South Korea at the top. Of course people from the UK will argue with it because: a) it lumps all the UK education systems together; b) people from the UK tend to be negative about their own systems unless "johnnie foreigner" criticises them, eg. the NHS.

Despite what some people on MN seem to think UK education isn't that bad. It could improve, and it definitely needs to change, but so does education everywhere. (Mr Gove maybe taking English education back to his idea of a golden time, but even if it was great then, it could well be exactly what we do not need in the future.)

AThingInYourLife Tue 27-Nov-12 07:46:43

Education is a devolved matter, so there is no such thing as a UK education system.

wordfactory Tue 27-Nov-12 07:54:16

I think there are some excellent aspects to education in the UK. The main problem is that provision is so bloody patchy.

exoticfruits Tue 27-Nov-12 08:04:58

I agree with wordfactory and there lies the problem.

bruffin Tue 27-Nov-12 08:08:18

I thought one of the problems with the PISA test was that not all countries included their SEN students. Secondly Finnish is a very simple phonic language compared to English and is one of the easiest languages for a native to learn to read.

FWIW I did work for one of the largest Finnish employers for 6 years and was not that impressed with the outcome of their education system.

cory Tue 27-Nov-12 08:23:24

also, Finland has taken very few refugees compared to their Scandinavian neighbours: teaching a native speaker who has been brought up in the culture under stable conditions is going to be rather different from teaching a child who doesn't understand a word of the language and who is traumatised by war and torture and years in a refugee camp

(still think Sweden deserved to drop off the list though- the free school system has been a disaster)

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 09:43:57

IMO people are placing too much importance on education infrastructure. Obviously one needs good teachers, books and decent classroom conditions but once you have that, doesn't it simply comes down to aspirations and cultural values?

Here in the UK we have working class whites, blacks, Asians and Orientals. In the case of the latter groups, many children are hampered by the fact that they or their parents speak no English. In many cases the parents themselves have only had a rudimentary education back in their country of origin. They all go through the same schools and yet the end results are different.

Governments can tweak the system as much as they want but unless people recognise and accept that their values and aspirations play a major part in their children's education then we will be forever be ranked below these countries.

mummytime Tue 27-Nov-12 10:00:40

APMF I don't get your point, because Asian and Oriental students often outperform "white" students. Anecdotally I would also say (from a tiny unscientific sample, that is girls my DD knows), that Polish children do very well, but Portuguese do less well academically.

However if we complain about there being no UK education system, I think similar criticism can be made in Canada, as I have heard of vast differences between provinces.

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 10:53:22

By 'white' I meant the indigenous population smile My point is that many immigrants, of whatever colour, do very well despite being poor and not speaking the language. Yet the experts insist on telling us that the odds are stacked against you if you don't come from a middle class background.

Both here and in the Real World I hear people refer to 'pushy' parents in a negative way. Children should be children. Homework? Gets in the way scouts. Oxbridge? Jeeze you are pushy etc etc. In countries like HK there is no equivalent to the word 'pushy' because it is the norm to be pushy.

To me, it is these attitudes that is the source of the problem and all the reforms from the past and in the future are just minor tweaks that won't change much.

Elibean Tue 27-Nov-12 12:17:42

Interesting the report mentioned teachers' status as making a difference - I would love to see the UK value teachers and education more highly (across the board).

Also, standing back a little, interesting to see how we mind being 6th out of so many...not saying we shouldn't strive to improve, obviously, but still interesting!

mummytime Tue 27-Nov-12 12:52:47

APMF - the odd thing is: I and most of my friends, had incredibly laid back parents. No homework in primary, no supervision of homework in secondary. I was even travelling across London during my A'levels to take part in drama groups. I went to a naff school and worked less hard than my 'lazy" ds (at least outside school hours).
However despite this we all went to University when fewer people did, and we obtained good degrees, from Russell group or Oxbridge, and have gone on to achieve pretty well as adults.

Xenia Tue 27-Nov-12 12:54:36

Well we must be hugely valuing teachers here if we are right up there at number 6 and teacher status is important.

I suppose if it is partly based on how many to go university all you have to do is let people go with CCC to study trees or needlework and you shoot up the tables.

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 12:58:29

The reason why I am knocking 6th place is that the other way of looking at it is that we aren't as bad as a lot of countries (glass half empty smile )

We got our kids in Indies because there are no GS schools in my area and I felt that the nearby state comprehensives weren't particularly academic

So, we could be 6th or 60th but either way, I am still paying £30k pa for fees when I would rather save that money and retire early sad

mummytime Tue 27-Nov-12 13:13:42

Xenia, if it was that easy then why isn't the US higher? Or maybe someone has skewed the table to discredit some of the Higher education places that US students do go to.

Xenia Tue 27-Nov-12 13:31:52

Good point. Does 6th include the 7% of children in private schools or not who make up 50% of the best A levels/university places people?

I think 5 private school children over 13 years at about £10k a year is £650k and grossed up as out of income taxed at at least 40% is over £1m I have spent/saved the tax payer and I am generating some pretty good little tax payers already.

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 13:55:39

.... and all it takes is an off day in 10 years time for DC to graduate with a Third. It's a sobering thought. In that scenario the last laugh WILL be on us. sad

Copthallresident Tue 27-Nov-12 14:05:22

APMF HK parents send their children to the UK and US because the rote learning model answer culture of education in the local system does not prepare them for the commercial world (and employers have to compensate for the shortcomings of the education system ). Teachers in International Schools there are very used to teenagers who fall asleep at their desks because they are so tired from late night tutoring, who cannot even do their own hair because all childcare is delegated to helpers and drivers who are at the mercy of bullying children and to children having real issues with confidence as a result of an upbringing in which parental attention and love is severely rationed. A friend who teaches IB art which requires them to open up about their feelings, struggles to get them to unwind but when she does what emerges is frequently heart-breaking. The HK kids I know who have done best have come from families that rejected that norm of pushiness and detachment and gave their children warm and secure home lives and got them into International Schools like ESF / Kellett who also encourage and support rather than hothouse.

SminkoPinko Tue 27-Nov-12 14:12:02

What a great result! Just shows that despite all our mumsnet rows the UK generally does well by lots of its children. Of course, this is based on education under Labour. It will be interesting to see if we catapult down the tables with the Tory reforms. Or go upwards from a strong base. I think it's interesting that education systems appear to have little effect per se on national results with the top places being taken by countries with myriad approaches. I wonder if all the academy and free school stuff will have much effect on the quality of education in England, when all is said and done. I have always thought good education is all about inspiring and wonderful teachers with high expectations of their pupils, and not primarily about systems. Sounds like there are many more such teachers in the UK getting more Of our kids through exams and on to college, uni and beyond than we migit have thought.

Copthallresident Tue 27-Nov-12 14:15:32

Regardless of what methodology delivers us 6th or 20th place the issue with British education is that at it's best it is world beating but it fails too may pupils who are disadvantaged.

Finland has a flat social structure, there is no loss of status in being a plumber and at 16 pupils choose whether they want to go the academic route or opt for vocational training to be a craftsman, with no negative values of having failed to go the former route if they choose the latter. The system caters for all levels and types of ability. Teachers are not just given a high status but are made up of the top 10% of graduates and are completely empowered in the classroom, they teach for only 4 hours per day to allow sufficient time for preparation, and can deliver education tailored to individual needs. There is no state intervention or testing until 17. When DDs friend returned to Finland from a British system school well ahead of her peers her teacher simply kept teaching her at the same pace, she is now at the Stockholm School of Economics.

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 14:47:03

HK Chinese send their children to the UK to study at Oxbridge, Eton, Harrow and Co. and not to your local comprehensive. So let's not use this argument to prove how great UK schools are eh?

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 14:56:04

@copt - your anecdotal offering is based on rich Chinese kids with drivers and servants who attend your international school. Its like me holding up as an example a pushy mom that has been tutoring her kid since yr 1 in order to pass the 11+ at her super selective North London GS. Neither is typical of their respective countries.

Also, parents send their children to study here partly for snobbery reasons and partly because of the limited places at HK Uni and Poly. Or are you telling me that Metropolitan, Greenwich, South Bank and friends are attracting the Chinese because of their academic excellence?

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 15:07:01

it's funny how some people readily accept a survey that has us 6th but pooh pooh any survey that has us lowly ranked.

Copthallresident Tue 27-Nov-12 16:17:58

APMF You raised the pushy Hong Kong Parent as a model, based on what apart from stereotype I am not sure, for how we should all be pushing our children more. The anecdotal offering is of the fallout behind the stereotype. Those are the HK parents pushy enough to send their offspring to International Schools because of the widespread disenchantment with the local system amongst parents and employers alike. It is generally acknowledged that the local exam system relies too much on tutoring for rote learned tests of model answers and so is not a test of ability and the education system does not produce pupils with the skills of team working, creativity, debate, in the English Language needed by employers and universities. The HK ED has made changes to address the issues but as always it moves slowly.

It's not snobbery, though a different sort of status is important in HK, being ambitious for your DC in HK equates to getting them a western education and buying the best brand you can access academically and economically, hence the emphasis on Wycombe and Winchester, and Harvard and Yale, but if not the western education brand is attractive generally. The majority of Chinese students in tertiary establishments are of course mainland Chinese.

I wouldn't argue you shouldn't care about your child, just that you should have the empathy to know what will best meet their needs and build their confidence. There is a lot of middle ground between pushing your child to the point of abuse into Wycombe or NLCS and Oxbridge and giving them no challenges or boundaries. When a parent comes on here and says what do I have to do to get my DC into Oxbridge, I will do anything to realize my their dream, then quite rightly a lot of Mumnetters whose DCs have been through the application process, or work there, will say "woah, it is so competitive there is an element of lottery, don't set your DC up to think they failed, there are a lot of good unis out there, be more open minded."

However I agree that all the UKs place in the global education marketplace illustrates is that when the British Education system is at it's best, it is amongst the world's best. It was my point entirely that the problem is the gap between the best, and the students it lets down. I work with a charity that aims to mentor bright children from Jamaican backgrounds in underperforming inner London Schools , to provide them with models and the incentive to push themselves, often in the face of substantial peer pressure. When they get to Oxbridge they get firsts.

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 17:33:47

My 'model' is based on the HK Chinese that I knew as Uni students and from the 6 months I worked there. My experience has been with 'ordinary' Chinese as opposed to the rich ones that attended your international school. The two aren't the same in the same way that your pushy super selective GS mom is not typical of us Brits.

Your average Chinese kid is not worked to the point of exhaustion although I can understand how some Brit parents may consider 2 hours homework per night as being exhausting work smile

Basically, my point is that the UK working class attitude towards education simply does not exist among the HK working class. If you were to examine the typical WC mom in HK you probably find her similar to Pro Active Mildly Pushy UK GS mom smile

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 18:02:28

.... you also mention that the HK Chinese lacked creativity, team work-ing skills etc. You obviously haven't met the narrow minded, back stabbing me me me SOBs in my London office smile

I accept that the HK Chinese mentality isn't going to produce authors and poets in the same class as the UK. I guess that they just have to settle for having a general population that is literate in a mechanical way smile

dinkybinky Tue 27-Nov-12 18:45:32

I wonder if we have shot up the world league tables due to the amount of tutoring and parental input our children receive.

Copthallresident Tue 27-Nov-12 18:56:42

APMF My experience of Hong Kong is being married to someone who grew up in Mong Kok, living and working there in the Hong Kong Civil Service and at HKU for three years, completing a Masters in Chinese Studies and now in the process of completing a PhD. I doubt very much you have the slightest idea what the "typical Hong Kong Working Class mother" is like. The majority will be very basically educated immigrants from Guangdong who are pushing barrows around the markets, trading across the border, working in SMEs, or taking whatever economic opportunities arise, living with a family of 5 in 50 sq ft. The children who have emerged from that background, though many would be raised in Guangdong by Grandparents, would struggle to get the bare minimum of homework done just because they share their living space with so many others and a TV, and the expectation would be that they will follow in their parents footsteps following whatever economic opportunities there might be on either side of the border, and hopefully not getting involved with the Triads. They may have a stronger work ethic but academia does not beckon. Also amongst the WC mothers would be the Phillipinos, Nepalese and other immigrants that the Hong Kong provide with no Cantonese language training to enable them to access the education system (despite the considerable contribution they make to the HK economy, especially in the case of the ex Gurkhas) whose children are schooled by whoever has some knowledge, in disused buildings with whatever books they can scavenge. Or perhaps they are fishermen, or islanders, or farm in the New Territories.

I doubt very much you have ever known well someone who wasn't middle class from Hong Kong, and probably most were from the minority who are actually from Hong Kong, and not immigrants from the mainland in the last few decades. As the SARs crisis highlighted even the solidly middle class live in crowded flats that are too small to be healthy (the SARs virus was exceptionally transmitted by being directly sucked out of the soil pipe by decondensing water in the minute showers). It is these families who work all hours to pay for the tutoring etc to get through the local school exams. They do so because competition is intense and if they don't have the economic means to access an International Education or send their children overseas they have to play by the rules of the local education system, a relic of the Imperial examination system, with all the disadvantages I have already highlighted.

My friends who have advanced through the civil service had done so after a life dominated by cramming for exams , and generally were more driven by peer culture, and by the knowledge of what their parents had endured to get them to Hong Kong in the first place, than any pushyness by their proud and loving parents. And they believed that there was a need for change in their education system.

I would be very careful about drawing glib comparisons with a culture you do not fully understand.

It is a glib Daily Mail stereotype that all British working class parents are the feral underclass. I know plenty of working class parents who encourage their children and set firm boundaries for their behaviour, making sure that homework is done etc. The system fails those who do not have parental, and peer support, but it increasingly does not value those who are never going to be academic, those for whom a C in English was something they had to work very hard to achieve, even with parental support, and need opportunities that will enable them to meet their potential

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 18:58:44

Not unless there has been a radical shift in attitudes towards tutoring since the last set of figures were published.

Copthallresident Tue 27-Nov-12 19:08:33

APMF WTF? I accept that the HK Chinese mentality isn't going to produce authors and poets in the same class as the UK. I guess that they just have to settle for having a general population that is literate in a mechanical way angry Oh that would be why their film industry is admired the world over and by the greatest western filmmakers. Perhaps you should try reading some of their literature and poetry, and understanding the cultural context, try Eileen Chang to start with, readily available in translation. You probably didn't notice people from around the Chinese diaspora who regard her as the Chinese Jane Austen (but she is so much more) coming to Hong Kong to visit the landmarks she wrote about, in Repulse Bay, the wall in western etc. Try Lust, Caution first. Then make ignorant remarks like that.

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 19:53:03

@copt - I find it funny that you think that living the expat life and teaching rich Chinese kids at the international school equips you to generalise about working class Chinese. Yet me being working class and having grown up in a working class part of the Midlands is not equipped to generalise about the Brit working class.

Anyway, going from past experience when faced with a MNetter that feels a need to wheel out their CV before launching a protracted look at all my qualifications so in ya face post, things can only go downhill. So .... [reaches for HIDE button]

APMF Tue 27-Nov-12 20:04:51

Just read your last post. Before I HIDE this thread, it was YOU that went on about how the Chinese that you know lack creativity because they are taught to pass exams. I sarcastically agreed with you and made the sarcastic comment that they just have to settle with being literate in a mechanical way. And now you are going WTF????

As for the HK film industry being much admired, I agree. No one makes a great kung fu movie like the HK Chinese smile

Copthallresident Tue 27-Nov-12 20:54:32

APMF Perhaps an education system that does not help develop people's talents is letting them down? It doesn't mean they will not go on to use their talents. If you think the Hong Kong Film Industry is just King Fu movies try this en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Mood_for_Love for a film that has won world wide acclaim.

And HKU is not an International School, it is Hong Kong University.

But doubtless you will want to hide, lets not get facts get in the way of some comfortable stereotypes.

Bonsoir Wed 28-Nov-12 07:36:51

NulliusInBlurba - "However, the point about the need for a culture that supports learning is actually pretty valid. One of the reasons Germany performs so poorly is that education is widely perceived by teachers and pupils as a play-it-dirty competition to eliminate weaklings and maintain the status quo rather than a genuine opportunity to teach all people as much as they are able to learn."

Interesting comment, that helps me put words on some of the things I feel about the French education system which also seems more concerned with selecting the strong/eliminating the weak (hence maintaining the status quo) than teaching useful skills to all.

Hamishbear Wed 28-Nov-12 08:27:37

This is not unique to France or Germany. It is seen by many countries that the bright should be developed at the expense of others especially where resources are limited. It makes sense that the very able should thrive, it is this group that will eventually inform policy in Government, be key decision makers, the best scientists, doctors, teachers etc. These are the best brains that will bring the most benefit to wider society.

Some children in local schools in singapore are on an accelerated programme - 'gifted' stream. Eventually the very best will have their time at outstanding universities completely funded by the Government. They will have to spend a few years working for the Government in return on graduation. Society benefits etc.

Bonsoir Wed 28-Nov-12 08:35:51

Hamishbear - that is not the issue. Clever, privileged French children are not developed particularly well at all - they are merely siphoned off into educational and professional paths that will ensure they retain power and privilege.

Hamishbear Wed 28-Nov-12 08:52:08

As they are in other countries and I share your concerns. It's about duty to wider society or perhaps the continuation of the system at the expense of the development and enrichment of the individual.

Bonsoir Wed 28-Nov-12 09:34:51

There is a difference, however, between examination systems that try to evaluate achievements in tangible skills and examination systems that are trying to eliminate the less privileged.

MoreBeta Wed 28-Nov-12 09:42:05

The problem with the very wide spread between the quality of the very best schools and teh very worst schools.

If we could improve or close the worst schools the average would rise dramatically. Our very best schools are undoubtedly among the best in the world but I suspect other coutries come higher up the ranking by just being more consistently good across the board but not spectacularly good. The UK education system is extrmely polarised.

orangeberries Wed 28-Nov-12 09:44:37

I think there is very little chance for many underpriviledged children in the UK of accessing the best available education. Some might be lucky and make it but simply by virtue of finding maybe a teacher that inspires them to do well or a role model, or a huge inner drive to succeed, rather than accessing an institution of excellence. The latter are pretty much the preserve of the wealthy/well off/savvy. These inequalities exist everywhere to a certain extent, but I do think they are pretty exaggerated here in comparison to other countries. I think in the PISA report it indicated that too, ie that the UK was particularly good at segretating children by social class.

wordfactory Wed 28-Nov-12 14:40:14

The lack of consistency is a huge problem and one most commonly swept under the carpet by defenders, as opposed to supporters, of the system in the uk.

losingtrust Wed 28-Nov-12 16:41:57

More money is being spent on schools in deprived areas. Their facilities are better and attracting good graduates who want to prove themselves. Ask teachers in the so called mc areas who are actually upset that they cannot offer the same facilities because their children are perceived to be well off. Under performing schools are being associated with the heads of higher achieving schools. Maybe the key differences is role model. Some of the best leas are in deprived areas of London. I fail to see how much more the uk can do at the moment and I thinks these efforts are being reflected in the uk position. I would congratulate some of the teachers in these schools who are getting bright kids into the best universities despite coming from a challenging background. If the system only pushes the already bright kids from age 4 we will be missing a lot of bright and talented kids who start off at a lower level be come back with a vengeance.

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