We've done crap again in the international education league.

(201 Posts)
mrswarbouys Tue 03-Dec-13 13:08:47

Leading to lots of talk on radio today with politicians spouting their lofty rhetoric and pointless statistics. What I'd like to know is what do people believe could be the reason why we're doing so badly?

BraveMerida Tue 03-Dec-13 13:27:20

I don't get it. Overseas in U.A.E. and Malaysia the british curriculum is highly rated and locals (and expats) pay an arm and a leg to send their children to the prestigious British Curriculum international schools....it can be that bad...
Perhaps they have a very narrow criteria for the league tables....how do you measure creativity and critical/free thinking for example.

Also, in Asia they have a very strong tutor culture and high pressure environment focused on exams....Not sure it's a good thing to join them in this game.

acorntree Tue 03-Dec-13 13:37:27

Agree with BM -
Did you see the article about 20 hour school days in S.Korea
That's not what I would want for my child.

We also need to teach creativity if we are to foster innovation
in the future. That is harder to measure in tests.

acorntree Tue 03-Dec-13 13:38:15
mrswarbouys Tue 03-Dec-13 13:38:17

There was a Korean child on the radio this morning who claims to work at her school work until 2 am and is up a 6 am to start all over again.

Perhaps the people in U.A.E etc, like the look of the U.K curriculum as it tries to treat kids as individuals with individual needs and skills? My SIL is French and she tells me that although French kids have a pretty miserable time at school. Whilst they do a little better academically than UK schools. Their's are all about Maths, literacy, bit of science and not much else.

mrswarbouys Tue 03-Dec-13 13:39:29

There it is - thanks acorntree. Horrifying..

spottyturtle Tue 03-Dec-13 13:45:08

Also, I work in a university. Typically students who have been educated in Asian countries and come to join us as postgraduates are very good on paper, work very hard, and very good at doing what they are told, but struggle with the outside-of-the-box thinking that you need for independent research.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 13:51:27

There are lies, damned lies and statistics.

500,000 pupils in "65 countries and local administrations"

which 7700 pupils did they choose from England?
probably a representative sample
whereas other countries accidentally picked their best areas

"China" did well because it EXCLUDED the results from the whole country except Shanghai and Hong Kong

so maybe England should only be measured based on NW1 hmm

and FFS we beat the USA by ten places - the most powerful nation on earth.

BraveMerida Tue 03-Dec-13 13:54:50

Well then, let them wear their emporor's new clothes...

stargirl1701 Tue 03-Dec-13 13:57:15

Most countries exclude all children with any ASN from the statistics. I know Scotland does not. Most countries do not have inclusion. I know Scotland does (for better or for worse). The children attend school for different durations of time. Parents (not all) in Scotland prioritise happiness over academic progress.

They aren't comparing like with like. I was very surprised when a child from my class (mainstream) went to Sweden and was moved into a special school. Scandinavia is lauded but they clearly have a different approach to inclusion.

OneLittleToddleTerror Tue 03-Dec-13 14:03:09

I'm from Hong Kong and I can understand why East Asia does very well. The youth has a very different culture. Doing well at school is seen as the right thing to do. My secondary school cousin is on my Facebook friends list and he regularly has updates about studying with his friends, wanting to go to law schools, participating in the school's debating team and mini UN. Being 'cool' in the British youth kind of way is seen as a loser behaviour.

Not everyone does 20 hours of schooling. It's more like a full day adult day's work.

Until we culture of non-achievement in the UK, we won't be able to compete with East Asia academically.

However, I also agree with spottyturtle that East Asia's culture does not celebrate creativity. Obedience and do as you are told is seen as a good thing.

I always like to show this to people who ask about this

Can you imagine teachers being celebrated like this in the UK?

Shootingatpigeons Tue 03-Dec-13 14:03:22

For all the reasons above I found the OECD's man's unquestioning praise for the Shanghai system mind boggling in itself. www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25090034 Those in Shanghai who can afford it send their DCs to schools in western countries or International Schools to escape the "intensively competitive meritocracy" that rests heavily on a tradition of valuing rote learning over critical or creative thinking. It is certainly not a system I would want for my daughters, and I have lived there.

I am also very hmm about how these tests of literacy work. Apparently they translate the questions but how does this account for cultural bias. Mandarin and Cantonese rely on a knowledge of thousands of characters but are fairly straightforward structurally, in terms of grammar and tenses. Finnish is I gather written as it is spoken so translation of these languages is itself an art rather than a Science. That is before we come to the organic (shall we say) way in which the Shanghai results may have been arrived at.

Still what Shanghai and Finland have in common is that teachers are members of a respected profession and the education professionals left to do their job. They are also unlikely to be described as lefty Maoists when they disagreed with politicians, or at least if they were it would not be meant in a derogatory fashion grin

CecilyP Tue 03-Dec-13 14:22:53

so maybe England should only be measured based on NW1

What she said!

I don't think we did so much 'crap' as the OP states, more a kind of average. If we did exactly the same as 3 years ago, did we stagnate or did we maintain our position? Even if we improve our education, moving up the table would still depend on other countries failing to make similar improvements. Is it so bad to be no 26 in maths, between France and whatever country, unnamed in the link article, came 27th? I don't see a similar table for reading or science. Also, in these tables once you disregard the outliers at the top, the actual marks gained by the countries from about 10th to 30th are really very similar.

There are also other variables such as different approaches to inclusion as mentioned above. Then, I would imagine that in some countries young people approached these tests as if their lives depended on it whereas in others a far more laid back approach was taken.

YesIam Tue 03-Dec-13 14:29:27

All of you are making sense.
Why do we want to be higher in that list at the cost of childhood, well rounded creative individuals and family life? Apart from the fact that we are talking about a difference of 99% China and 93% UK... Am I right? That's just a ridiculous difference. Who takes this test? What's the population sample? And why does the media care so much?
Agggg I hate I hate I hate league tables.

pointyfangs Tue 03-Dec-13 14:58:54

The UK improved its score in maths and reading - that's good. They did slightly worse in science - that's not good.

That is really the only thing we should be looking at; how is the UK doing compared to itself 3 years ago. The answer is - not great, not disastrous. Meanwhile other countries are catching up - why are we surprised when many have started from a low base?

I'd also like to have a really good look at the points spread as opposed to the raw rankings, that is much more useful data. And as has been pointed out, the rankings do not compare like with like - translation issues and the exclusion of SN/certain geographical areas all distort the results.

I'm all for improving education, we can and should strive to do better, but it should not be driven by league tables like this one. And if South Korea's educational success brings with it South Korea's suicide rate then I say thanks, but no thanks.

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 15:07:49

Brave, the education at those British schools in the UAE is awful. People pay an arm and a leg for nothing IMO bMost parents I know have put their children into boarding schools in the UK, US or Europe.

I believe we dont do as well as other countries in the league tables because the UK is not made up of indigenous population. We have a large number of non Brits in our education system they pull the figures down as do the brits who think its not cool to learn.

ivykaty44 Tue 03-Dec-13 15:19:25

we did not do crap -we did better and so what if we are middle of the road and improving, the press try's hard to con people into thinking we did worse.

Japan has 3x the suicide rate of the uk and it was high in high school students back in the late 80's in Singapore, I don't want that type of pressure for our teens

pointyfangs Tue 03-Dec-13 15:34:49

I was listening to a brief interview with one of the people behind the survey - he pointed out that there had been no change in the gap in educational achievement within the UK and that I think is key - we live in a very, very unequal country. Until that is addressed we are not going to see sustained improvement in our scores.

What I found interesting is that Sweden, with its Gove-worshipped for profit Free Schools, has now slipped below the UK.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 15:55:43


bearing in mind that the students in each of the areas
- did NOT answer the same questions
- the 2000 data set was withdrawn by PISA as they admitted it was too small to be statistically significant
- pupils in all areas and countries are not selected on the same basis
- India did not take part this time
- not all children answer all the questions
- parental questionnaires are used to filter whose data was used hmm
etc etc

it all rather starts to stink to me.

mrswarbouys Tue 03-Dec-13 16:02:33

I didn't mean I believe we are crap. Rather in the eyes of the media and those that care about statistical categories such as this (which I do not) we are crap... I should have used " ".
BTW don't Asian countries teach maths with the Abacus? I've heard that is a far better way to learn maths than our way..

pointyfangs Tue 03-Dec-13 16:05:54

OP, an abacus is a useful visual way of teaching place value, which is one of the foundations of maths skills. There are others - my DDs learned place value visually in the first instance, the abstract came later. It's a good method and it is used in schools in the UK too.

What we need to watch out for is people (like Michael Gove) who believe that learning mathematical operations by rote without underlying understanding is the way to go. That way lies madness.

pointyfangs Tue 03-Dec-13 16:06:25

Talkinpeace that is shocking information. Then again we all know that there are lies, damned lies and statistics...

CaroBeaner Tue 03-Dec-13 16:09:25

monet "We have a large number of non Brits in our education system they pull the figures down"

And yet on another thread you are worrying that your DD will be kept out of a copmpetitive 6th form by the superior results of 'chinese girls'.

The news last night was full of rhetoric about how the government can only look on in envy at the results of Korea etc. Do we really envy a country where it is usual for families to send chidren to a private school for a second full day's worth of study once they leave school? And work in a regime which leads to an extremely high suicide rate? And results in highly drilled but non-innovative thinkers as described on thios thread?

I really, really do not evy any of this.

Lets improve the education available in this country, let's make sure that all our young people fulfill their own potential. Let's make sure they are able to follow a curriculum which fits the needs and opportinities of the modern world. But please, not in the footsteps of the countries at the top of this spurious league.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 16:14:48

We have a large number of non Brits in our education system they pull the figures down
Um no.
Statistically the highest achievers are Asian Chinese and Asian subcontinent and then the whites .... even the ones at private schools

OneLittleToddleTerror Tue 03-Dec-13 16:19:56

monet3 We have a large number of non Brits in our education system they pull the figures down I remember reading some report saying that chinese and indian (i.e. non muslim asians) perform the best in school. Just as what talkinpeace says.

Two main things came to mind from my experience ....

Firstly I heard a politician speculating on what they might be getting right in Finland, without mentioning their fantastic early years provision (I've worked in the early years sector for 20 years and know there are studies showing what a huge effect good early years provision makes throughout education and into adulthood) Finland, similar to other Scandinavian countries, starts formal education a little later but has incredibly well resourced child care/ early years provision, including great work with the young in forest schools and outside play.

Secondly I lived in Japan for a year and saw how positive and confident my friend's children were about tackling some maths homework. Very anecdotal I know, but I wonder if there is a different culture around maths, with so many children here seeming to write it off as a difficult subject and something they're "no good at"

Rosieres Tue 03-Dec-13 16:21:32

Whenever the PISA scores come out I tend to hear those on the left argue for a Finnish system (start school aged 7, long holidays, learning through play, etc.), which is criticised by those on the right as being too laissez-faire, soft and impractical to combine with modern working family life. And those on the right tend to argue for an East Asian model (strict discipline, drilled in technical subjects, long hours, start young, etc.), with the left pointing out that this knocks creativity out of the individuals and creates a lot of stress among the children. Anyone thinking about what to do in the British situation is presented with two mutually exclusive models and will be damned whichever way they move.

I discussed this recently with a relative who is a retired Education Professor, who has studied education in many different cultures, including Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, USA, Brazil and many places across Europe. He told me that education needs to build on the positives in local culture. In the Far East they have a Confucian/Taoist culture where they revere their ancestors, respect their elders, obey authority and do what they are told (in broad terms!). So you can manage an education system where the children will respect their teachers, do as they are told and can be drilled to do very complex tasks. But they aren't as strong on creative problem solving, and ironically often look to the British education system for ways to improve in this area. In Finland there is a Lutheran culture, with a high respect for literacy - historically you had to be able to sign your name to get married, regular Bible reading was seen as important and with lots of long winter nights you don't have much else to do but stay inside and read. So the Finns have a culture which highly values literacy, and consequently have built up a strong cultural value for education.

To try and copy either model and impose it on the British system would be a mistake, because it would not take into account British culture. Instead, you should analyse what is positive in British culture and work out how it can be capitalised on when we teach our children.

So, what do you think is strong in British culture that we can build on in our education system?

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 16:23:36

The UK leads the world in design engineering and much other design : bar none - for a long time
not a bad export industry and sign of good cross curricular creative thinking

Rosieres Tue 03-Dec-13 16:27:21

Talkinpeace - totally agree. I think creativity is something we are very good at, whether it's design engineering, media creativity (we export an awful lot of TV and media concepts) or scientific research.

Perhaps there's something in the British acceptance of eccentricity, thinking outside the box and individuality which we can maximise on.

soul2000 Tue 03-Dec-13 16:32:52

Talkinpeace. I think "Roy Hodgson" needs to contact you for advice on excuses , when England lose their three group games.

It was too hot?

The food was Rubbish?

Perhaps it was the time difference?

Or maybe it was because they were not good enough to compete at the World Cup.

Every educational survey that comes out keeps putting the U.K below the serious countries (EXCEPT USA). You only need to watch BILL O' REILLY once to work out why the USA comes below the UK.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 16:37:04

I was born in the USA - if China had been forced to include data from its backwaters they would have outweighed Shanghai, same as hicksville outweighed Boston.

and frankly if England keep losing they might take football off the telly and then kids might start working in school rather than thinking they are the next Rooney. (fingers crossed)

Very interesting Rosieres, but I'd like to add that I worked in a Japanese Nursery/ Infant school and the younger children were treated quite gently and liberally, for example were not told off for running in the corridors.
I understand that at home too young Japanese children are very much allowed to be children during infancy, with the high expectations only coming in as children get older.
I think we need more study of educational and cultural differences in different countries. I think this area of research seems to be under explored from discussions I hear on the subject. Decisions made do not seem to be thoroughly grounded in relevant research.

Rosieres Tue 03-Dec-13 16:45:35

Juggling - interesting to hear about your experience in Japan. My relative has done some work in Japan and notes they are doing a lot right with regards to teaching maths (his specialism), although he cites Singapore as being even more on the ball. Other East Asian cultures are very good at drilling process into kids but don't necessarily get the conceptual flexibility which British kids are better at.

I am aware that my relative gave a very broad analysis during our brief conversation, and summing up about different cultures was broad brush. But it struck me how sensible it was to look at the local culture underlying an education system, and how too often the discussion assumes you could set up a Finnish or East Asian model in the UK and replicate their outcomes. Cultural differences would undermine this, hence why I believe we need to look at what is strong in the UK and see how we can build on those strengths.

I'm sure that's true Rosieres, especially when you recognise that children's first and most important educators are their parents.

I think creativity is one good call regarding what's best about British strengths and culture - am thinking we have a wealth of fabulous children's literature (for one thing) which we should be sharing and celebrating more confidently with our children in schools (and at home) during their early years particularly.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 16:54:49

Japan has the mother of all demographic time bombs brewing.
They put lots of effort into each child because there are proportionately so few of them.

Korea has created an economic time bomb as there are not enough good "chaebol" jobs to go round and the very narrow skill set of Korean graduates is not in demand elsewhere

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 17:04:41

Japan's population "pyramid" www.stat.go.jp/data/nenkan/pdf/z02-2.pdf for reference ....
unless they start to encourage immigration, their economy is even more doomed than the UKs!

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 17:06:10

Talkingpeace, Im not English and my DH is Asian so I know how hard asian children work. I was talking about Eastern Europeans, my SIL lives in Birmingham in her DD class (year 2)there is not one native English speaker the children cant communicate with the teacher yet alone learn.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 17:09:04

WOW, that's a sweeping generalisation based on third hand hearsay.

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 17:12:07

Yes, I bet many of the children have great English by Y2 even if English is an additional language for all - young children pick up languages so well
(a generalisation, but I think this one is based on fact!)

florence96 Tue 03-Dec-13 17:17:31

I despair, yet again as soon as a report indicates that there may be something amiss with the UK's education system, educationalists immediately phew, phew it and insist all is rosy in the garden. It would be nice if for once the interests of all children were put first.

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 17:18:05

A quick google will tell you it is not a generalisation, Talking.

I think immigration is good for the country generally children from poorer backgrounds have drive and determination to succeed.

OneLittleToddleTerror Tue 03-Dec-13 17:21:00

Rosieres What an insightful post. You have summarised what I had in mind eloquently. I despair every time Gove tried to say something about copying the Far East because I know about the cultural differences. As you say, things like respect your teacher, do as you are told, and valuing academic achievements.

So, what do you think is strong in British culture that we can build on in our education system? I think the British are especially good at thinking for themselves and not afraid of challenging authority. This is a great foundation of a creative workforce.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 17:26:01

The schools in Birmingham with very high English not as first language (over 95%) are predominantly Asian, not Polish.
And I find it highly unlikely that an Asian school will not have Asian teachers in an Asian area.

I happen to live in a city that is 10% east European : and they are much harder workers than the local whites. Both the adults and the kids. They are bringing the results up not pulling them down.

Speaking as an immigrant, I think they are rather good for the UK smile

wordfactory Tue 03-Dec-13 17:29:31

I think the report is interesting and certainly throws up some areas where we need to work.

Noneed to panic, but sticking our fingers in our ears is just idiotic!

Indy5 Tue 03-Dec-13 17:32:09


Eastern European primary children, eg where large majority are Polish, Latvians etc. will not be bringing the stats down, if anything as they will be bringing them up as they progress ...there are certain minorities that are less culturally academic - so you can't even say all Asian cultures are more academic as that is too general - you have to look at pockets, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian as well as other groups and the cultures can be quite different at home ...and certain poor white working class who will also bring the figures down. Its also not true that all immigrants from poorer backgrounds have drive and determination to succeed - it needs a far deeper dive than these sweeping general googled statements.

SuburbanRhonda Tue 03-Dec-13 17:32:49

According to the BBC, Indonesia scores the lowest in these rankings, yet is the country where the highest proportion of children say they are happiest in school.

The least happy pupils are in high-performing Korea.

I know what I would prefer for my children.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 17:38:44

throws up some areas where we need to work

Sadly Gove's dismantling of education networks and focussing on support for those who already look after themselves is exactly the wrong direction to be heading.

The USAs figures are dragged down by poor school boards.
So the way up is to help them, not allow the Massachusetts boards to pull even further ahead.

Those who ARE already achieving their best cannot be expected to do even better to drag up the average.
That can only be done by helping those who are under achieving.
The pupil premium is a step in the right direction.
Segregated state funded schooling of any kind is not.

teacherwith2kids Tue 03-Dec-13 17:42:06

It seems to me a bit like an Ofsted 'Requires Improvement' for a very inclusive school with a comprehensive intake [because as others have pointed out, much of the PISA data is not remotely comparable across countrues].

A HT saying 'ah, we only got that because Ofsted is wrong' is missing the point, but so would a HT be who said 'since we are not Outstanding, everything that we do is dreadful'.

What matters is digging down into the data and reading the fine print. What did we do well? What did we do less well? Would it help our children in their future lives if we can improve some of the things that we do less well? Or are we OK with some of the things that we do less well because we understand that they are a necessary consequence of principles we hold very dear (e.g. inclusion) and so we aren't going to change them?

It is that detailed type of debate that is needed.

wordfactory Tue 03-Dec-13 17:48:16

Completely agree with that teacher.

The stance that the sky is falling in, or that our DC will all commit suicide if we pay this any mind, are both silly.

Quite often one can look at what another country is doing well and look at it in detail, to see where we might be able to apply some ideas in the UK. No one is suggesting that we co op the Korea model wholesale, but it seems foolish to simply dismiss it.

SatinSandals Tue 03-Dec-13 17:49:52

I would hate my children to go through education in the places at the top, the stress levels must be through the roof. I wouldn't mind copying Finland, but we would have to spend a lot more money on Education, hold teachers in higher regard and stop formal education before the child is 7yrs- I can't see it happening. In the meantime Gove is making good teachers leave the profession.

Orangeanddemons Tue 03-Dec-13 17:52:09

Interesting how people are talking about creativity on here. Gove has butchered design education in schools

wordfactory Tue 03-Dec-13 17:54:54

I don't see anyone suggesting that we frame our education system to become Korean grin.

And to be fair, it's not simply school that is causing unhappiness amongst its youth. It is a complex system of expectation/responsibility.

However, scientists in this country have long been arguing that our science education is simply not keeping up. We need to look perhaps at the ways in which science is valued in other cultures, and the style of teaching.

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 18:06:50

I agree wordfactory, science is not valued in the current UK system. Children should have the same amount of Science as Maths and English IMO.

wordfactory Tue 03-Dec-13 18:17:53

I think one of the problems is that the curriculum gets more and more crowded.

Each passing year the world and his wife want teachers to teach summat else! Everything from debt management to cycling profficency.

Teachers just can't do it! Not and fit in the basics to a decent standard!

We either need to weed out some of the non-academic stuff or increase the amount of hours. Othewrwise everything gets more and more diluted.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 18:18:47

Do you have children at Secondary school in the UK?

DD is doing Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Maths and English (among other subjects)
how much science SHOULD she be doing?

the devaluing of science is one of the few things that CAN be laid at the door of the media.
DH gets utterly sick of TV people interviewing him and their opening gambit being "I hated science at school"
would they start an interview with a musician by saying they hated music?

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 18:30:09

Yes, I do have children at secondary school Talking. My DD is doing triple science GCSE. My year 8 child does one term per science a year and my youngest DD only gets an hour and a half a week of combined Science a week this is not enough and this is part of the problem.

Our society does not value scientists, engineers, artists, writers etc.

Instead we venerate popular culture icons - sportsmen, actors, musicians, reality TV stars etc.

This is fine to an extent, but it has given children the dream of flunking school and getting lucky. No one believes in working hard to achieve a goal.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 18:34:43

no g in my name btw

if your child is doing GCSEs, how did you not know about the changes to the school leaving age and the implications it has on all 6th forms?

with science education - as in all things - its quality not quantity that counts

pointyfangs Tue 03-Dec-13 18:45:32

monet3 a very good point about celebrity worship - I think it does contribute to a culture of 'it isn't cool to do well at school'.

This was around when I was at secondary in the Netherlands, but it is much worse here and now. If it weren't for the fact that DD1's school explicitly pushes academic achievement and that she is part of a group of about 10 high achieving (and sporty) girls, her life at school would be really, really tough. As it is - well, it isn't easy to bully a sizeable group. People still try, though.

ipadquietly Tue 03-Dec-13 18:45:51

Little question:
How comes Shanghai is top of the PISA table?
Isn't it a city, not a country?

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 18:48:02

I did know. Why are you taking comments from other threads and applying them to this one?

Quality and quantity get results, as you well know. An hour or two a week of what equates to 3 subjects is not enough.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 03-Dec-13 18:57:32

>science is not valued in the current UK system. Children should have the same amount of Science as Maths and English IMO

My DD is doing her GCSEs - triple science. I just looked at her timetable, about twice as much science as English (which is lit and lang).

>Our society does not value scientists, engineers, artists, writers etc.
There you have a very valid point, but it's not the fault of the education system. Its to do with parasitical various other professions commanding higher remuneration. Not just 'slebs'

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 19:06:42

Errol, this only happens at GCSE level why not add more science into the curriculum for younger children?

Science and engineering are not only part of our past - the future of our economy depends to an ever-increasing extent on our continued excellence in scientific discovery and high-tech manufacturing and engineering does it not?

I said further up the thread that the Media is to blame for valuing nohopers over professionals and academics.

CanIMakeItToChristmas Tue 03-Dec-13 19:27:57

I have a child in my class from a country which scored highly. A couple of weeks ago I had a parents evening meeting with these parents. The child is doing really well; working at well above expected level, making really rapid progress, working really hard at school (and I suspect home as well). I was told I must put more pressure on her, I must keep the pressure up all the time and she must always feel the stress, if she is not feeling stressed she will not do well. She must not play, she must do work at playtimes, she must always do it perfectly. My first thought as this conversation started was language barrier issues, so I clarified. But no that is exactly what the parents meant.

The child is six years old!

I've visited South Korea too and stayed with a very kind family there - I was very impressed by their two lovely children and their attitudes to their school work, to learning English (with their visitor) and to the relaxed and friendly family atmosphere. Most of the women were SAHM's too which was interesting - we spent a day playing tennis and another day the group took me to visit a local temple with lunch out together in a local restaurant - some of this may have been for my benefit but nevertheless I think it was an insight into their culture and family life.
Crucially South Korea mustn't be confused with the very different North Korea.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 03-Dec-13 19:57:02

>why not add more science into the curriculum for younger children?

I'm a scientist, so very pro-science, but thinking about what DD covered at various ages so far, not too sure what would be possible to add earlier that would be of real value. You really do need to have got to a certain level of maths and mental sophistication before you can deal with most science. They could do a bit more computer science earlier.

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 20:01:53

My Uncle is a physics professor he thinks the standard of his new students knowledge is declining year on year.
I said earlier the whole curriculum needs updating, not just Science.

pointyfangs Tue 03-Dec-13 20:31:56

CanIMakeIt that is so very sad.

Juggling no-one here is confusing North and South Korea. North Korea does not participate in these tests. The girl who was interviewed on the BBC yesterday - the one who was sleeping just about 4 hours a night and doing a double shift in school and in a crammer - she was in South Korea. Which has a sky high suicide rate.

sadsometimes Tue 03-Dec-13 20:44:50

We have a culture of low academic achievement in this country and a ridiculously overdeveloped sense of protecting our children from 'stress'. As soon as there's any sign of stress then we encourage our children to give up. Being happy is seen as the absolute pinnacle of childhood - yes of course we want happiness but that can be achieved by also encouraging and pushing our children. Dds school day runs from 8.30 to 5.30 and she has lots of homework. She's thriving and happy and will do well.

singinggirl Tue 03-Dec-13 20:54:20

But the proportion of time spent on literacy and maths at primary level is because they are the facilitating subjects for studying science and other subjects at secondary level. If you cannot read the textbooks and record results correctly you cannot study science to the same level. Hence the different proportions of science vs English/maths at different ages.

pointyfangs Tue 03-Dec-13 20:55:40

8.30 to 5.30 is a longer day than very many of us do at work. Then homework on top of that? No, that is too much. My DD's school day runs from 9 till 3.30. She has a moderate amount of sensible homework. She is thriving and happy and will do well - is in a set of children aiming for Oxbridge/RG universities. She has tests regularly, and I have no problem with that - at secondary, they should be learning to deal with testing and with some stress. The low academic achievement culture is damaging - but so is the all work and no play culture. There has to be a middle ground.

pinkcheese Tue 03-Dec-13 20:56:02

Tragic story in today's Times about 10 and 12 yr old Chinese pupils committing suicide after being reprimanded by teachers. This is not a culture that the UK should be aspiring to!

ErrolTheDragon Tue 03-Dec-13 21:35:15

>We have a culture of low academic achievement in this country

Do we really? I don't see it among anyone I know.

PointyChristmasFairyWand Tue 03-Dec-13 21:48:13

Errol my DD1 sees it in school every day. She gets picked on for being academic. She has a good friendship group who are all just like her, but it is still not easy at times.

DD2 is in Yr6 and gets picked on too - she's like her sister, 2 to 3 years ahead of average. The only difference is that she is a confident character who will fight back, whereas DD1 is more sensitive.

There are very good reasons why a lot of people are not engaged with education - the legacy of the class system and the lack of real social mobility (think: unpaid internships for the children of wealthy parents) mean that a lot of people believe that it isn't worth trying, because they are beating on a locked door. Unlocking that door has to come first.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 22:10:16

China refused to allow its national results to be included, so only Hong Kong and Shanghai were included to give a false impression.

kaumana Tue 03-Dec-13 22:25:47

Did anyone here do the maths sample questions that were given in the BBC article? < go on do it>

We did them at work as a laugh thinking that we would fail a couple each as the levels got "harder".

Um, no. We all got 100% and couldn't believe how easy they were. Which has frankly scared the hell out of me re how maths etc is being taught.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 22:27:09

yup, I did them all - but then I'm an accountant
and i'm not 15
and we do not know what questions were asked in different contries as they were not the same everywhere

pickledsiblings Tue 03-Dec-13 22:29:36

'the devaluing of science is one of the few things that CAN be laid at the door of the media.
DH gets utterly sick of TV people interviewing him and their opening gambit being "I hated science at school"
would they start an interview with a musician by saying they hated music?'

It's even worse when it comes to maths. It's practically a badge of honour to be crap at maths in the UK - self-deprecation in the extreme!

The cultural issue is such valid one and along with asking what is positive in British culture and working out how it can be capitalised on when we teach our children, we need also to identify what is bad about it and make sure that this does not permeate our educational system.

kaumana Tue 03-Dec-13 22:33:13

I would say the questions posed were very basic. I do not have an accountacy/ finance/maths background but I do have a 15 DS who thought the same.

PointyChristmasFairyWand Tue 03-Dec-13 22:59:21

Agreed, the sample questions were easy - my DD1 could have done them and she is 12.

Kenlee Tue 03-Dec-13 23:37:31

Well all I can say is I sent my daughter to a British boarding school....Says a lot....

She is loving it....but she doesn't eat MacDonalds.....

To her she just does it...and nothing is impossible.

So I dont think the Education system in the UK is crap..

wordfactory Wed 04-Dec-13 08:31:03

Errol I think there has been a cultural shift in the UK vis a vis the value of an education.

It is no longer seen as a way to lift yourself up or better yourself. Around 40% of all young people now have a degree and they're coming to realise many of them are not going to provide much assistance.

Popping off to uni (even an RG one wink ) is no longer a ticket to ride.

Certain industries are now closed off to all but the children of the wealthy and well connected. Young people know this.

I'm involved in the widening access programme for Oxbridge and the science departments find it harder than most to recruit good candidates from non-selective state schools.

Timetoask Wed 04-Dec-13 08:36:55

Maybe, young people have it very "cushty" here.
The main motivation for people to do well and more on in life comes from knowing that education is the only way up if there is no safety net to protect.
There is an culture in the UK of entitlement. Someone else will fix it for me. I don't need to work for it. I will get lots of benefits, so why should I work hard?

wordfactory Wed 04-Dec-13 08:46:48

Timetoask that's certainly what many of my immigrant friends think grin.

TBH I think there's an element of that. I've visted China quite a few times, and what seems clear is that if you're poor there, you're poor. Destitute, no access to proper healthcare, fuel, food etc.

Yet, if you're middle class, you really do live a life beyond your parents' wildest dreams.

So that is very much the goal for anyone who can.

Also, the fear of losing that is entrenched. To go backwards is not only shameful, but extreme.

These are powerful drivers to work hard at school. Plus of course years being starved of anythiung except state sponsored knowledge produces a powerful hunger, that is being opassed down to the younger generation.

Here in the UK, things are different. Being poor is not quite so extreme (though not pleasant) and has been avoided by the vast majoirty of the country in recent times.

In addition, 'doing well at school' is not going to propel you into an entirely different sphere. To have a markedly different life to your parents, you're going to need to do a hell of a lot!

wordfactory Wed 04-Dec-13 08:49:27

Also many children of the traditional middle classes can see that their parents did do well at school...and yet they're quite skint. The nouveau pauvre.

It hasn't provided the sort of lifestyle anyone expected, so of course the young 'uns are having a rethink!

Blueberrypots Wed 04-Dec-13 08:56:26

We have a culture of low academic achievement in this country and a ridiculously overdeveloped sense of protecting our children from 'stress'. As soon as there's any sign of stress then we encourage our children to give up. Being happy is seen as the absolute pinnacle of childhood - yes of course we want happiness but that can be achieved by also encouraging and pushing our children. Dds school day runs from 8.30 to 5.30 and she has lots of homework. She's thriving and happy and will do well

I agree 100% with this, sadsometimes.

I come from a different system and feel that "happiness" is vastly overrated and that the majority of children are actually at their happiest when they have a sense of achievement, which comes from hard work.

Incidentally, my DD1 is the same as sadsometimes and her happiness vastly increased when we moved her to a more focussed and hard working environment.

wordfactory Wed 04-Dec-13 09:11:01

I think it needs to be a balance.

We don't want our young people squeezed of their joyfullness.

But on the other hand, we need to see that they're are robust and resilient. They won't crumble at the first sniff of pressure or failure or competition. Or they won't if a parent does their job properly!

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 09:24:07

dd is educated independently. She occasionally has a longer and more stressful day than I do in full time work. When people talk about England's education system being the envy of many overseas they are talking about the independent sector. The state sector could learn a lot from this but Gove is ridiculed whereever he goes, so I can't see things improving any time soon.

Kids are 'happy' leaving school at 3pm, making a poster on the pc then playing xbox until 9pm. I'd be horrified if my children did this more than once every few weeks and only then it would be a 'treat' given as downtime if they had worked hugely hard over a couple of weeks. Actually they never wnat to play on the xbox but they'd watch shite tv instead - they can do this at the weekend (evening only as there is sport and animals to look after during the day!) and perhaps once a fortnight at home.

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 09:26:45

"We don't want our young people squeezed of their joyfullness.

But on the other hand, we need to see that they're are robust and resilient. They won't crumble at the first sniff of pressure or failure or competition. Or they won't if a parent does their job properly!"

yes i agree but the school is complicit in this by building CONFIDENCE at school, to deal with failure healthily you first have to know what it feels like to succeed. This is why a broad curriculum including sport, drama etc give some children the chance to taste success sometimes for the first time which then in turn helps them to cope with failure.

PointyChristmasFairyWand Wed 04-Dec-13 09:28:23

Kids are 'happy' leaving school at 3pm, making a poster on the pc then playing xbox until 9pm.

That's a bit of a sweeping statement though, sadsometimes. It is not the case that this is what state sector kids do as a matter of course - many work very hard, have homework and extracurricular activities - my DD plays netball and basketball for the school team and trains 4 hours a week on top of her school work, for example. And she most certainly does not play on consoles during the school week, stay up until 9pm or watch loads of crap tv. None of her friends live like that either. You have a distorted idea of what the state sector is like. hmm

Blueberrypots Wed 04-Dec-13 09:29:56

I agree that there needs to be a balance too, but I think at the moment the balance is skewed too far the other way.

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 09:30:08

Yes I am aware of that as many of dds friends are at the local good state comp. But children like dd and your dd will do will in life as they are motivated and driven. There are huge amounts of kids who are not.

noddyholder Wed 04-Dec-13 09:31:29

I heard someone on the radio ring in and liken it to adaptation to suit the current and emerging job market ie rising unemployment and no real Uk industry to speak of therefore no demand for highly educated workforce shock and sad

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 09:43:47

That's just an excuse IMO.

Yes times are tough but surely that should mean even more incentive to get a good education. Success is not celebrated in our culture unless its winning the X Factor and even then we can't wait to tear them down.

wordfactory Wed 04-Dec-13 09:44:15

noddy I,ve thought for some time that the middle was disappearing.

There are low paid jobs and there are highly paid, highly skilled jobs that require a hell of a lot to get a foot in the door.

Summerworld Wed 04-Dec-13 09:44:40

What we need to watch out for is people (like Michael Gove) who believe that learning mathematical operations by rote without underlying understanding is the way to go. ^

One can uinderstand maths very well, but it will soon be forgotten if not practised. This is where maths teaching falls down in this country. No textbook which is tried and tested is used in class, but instead print-outs, dog-eared sheets etc. A disjointed approach which maths does not forgive.

I was educated in a Eastern European country and maths command is way better there among the general population. Because of the different way maths is taught in schools. There is a number of approved textbooks to choose from (all of which cover the curriculum), those textbooks introduce topics in a systematic way, building from basic concepts onto more complex one. The new ideas are practised a lot, I am talking around 10 sets of exercises for each new topic. As you progress through the textbook, past topics are intertwined into new ones and the student gets their knowledge refreshed and kept active.

I find that in the UK schooling there is no particular linkage between different maths topics, students study one thing this week, a different thing next week. there is little opportunity to repeat and practise throughout the year what has been learnt and synergise the concepts.

I think Eastern and Asian countries tend to be a lot more methodical and this certainly pays off when maths is concerned.

I agree that problem solving and creative thinking emphasis is a big advantage of UK education. But one still needs to know the facts and have the breadth of knowledge to problem solve. There must be foundations to build on. For some reason foundation building is often overlooked in favour of independent thinking. But the latter is not truly possible without the former.

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 09:46:36

Why don't parents of kids who are struggling with maths insist on mathletics or workbooks after school? 45 mins of mathletics 4 days a week can really help confidence. Of course its not a magic solution but it helps kids to know that maths is nothing to be scared of. Despite being bright and hard working dd struggles with maths. I am not good at explaining year 9 maths! But going back to basics with mental maths and times tables seemed to help her with her confidence generally which has had a knock on effect in her school work.

noddyholder Wed 04-Dec-13 09:47:02

It is like the workforce is adapting to availability unconsciously a bit like when bugs and viruses mutate to suit the current environment. I don't think they were saying it was an excuse. it would be an excuse if the jobs were there and still the results were bad. Its a scary thought. I do agree that the instant gratification via Xfactor and the like which has been a huge part of the cultural norm in the last 10 years or so has promoted the get rich quick with little effort idea that we so love in this country.

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 09:47:44

"I find that in the UK schooling there is no particular linkage between different maths topics, students study one thing this week, a different thing next week. there is little opportunity to repeat and practise throughout the year what has been learnt and synergise the concepts.

I think Eastern and Asian countries tend to be a lot more methodical and this certainly pays off when maths is concerned.

I agree that problem solving and creative thinking emphasis is a big advantage of UK education. But one still needs to know the facts and have the breadth of knowledge to problem solve. There must be foundations to build on. For some reason foundation building is often overlooked in favour of independent thinking. But the latter is not truly possible without the former."

^^^^ this ^^^^^^^^^

PointyChristmasFairyWand Wed 04-Dec-13 09:51:48

Thing is, sadsometimes, there comes a point at which we have to stop blaming schools and teachers and start looking at parents and wider society. There isn't one single factor that affects how children do at school, there are many and they are complex.

You and I and many others have the parenting skills to keep our children motivated and working as well as happy - not everyone has that, and for very good reasons. We live in a world where we have material wealth shoved into our faces 24/7 - celeb worship, brand names, easy credit - you name it. There's this illusion that you can have it all without paying for it. That is a culture that needs changing. We also need to improve social mobility so that young people have something to aspire to. It is not a coincidence that many countries with less of a rich/poor divide do better in the PISA tests than the UK, and Andreas Schleicher who was interviewed yesterday made it very clear that inequality was a factor in the UK's position.

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 09:55:01

Yes I agree I don't blame teachers or schools at all - in fact blame almost certainly lies on the shoulders of parents tbh - ALTHOUGH I do think learning times tables by rote as Gove suggests is the BEST way to learn times tables and its how I taught them to my children, if you know your times tables then you have a bloody good chance of improving at maths.

PointyChristmasFairyWand Wed 04-Dec-13 09:57:53

I absolutely agree that methodical maths teaching is key. It's the nature of that method that is up for debate - do we teach children to genuinely understand how numbers work (and then practise, practise, practise as Summerworld says), or do we just teach them to memorise the operations without having them understand what they are actually doing (and then practise, practise, practise)?

I was involved in a similar debate on the Guardian website yesterday and one poster described this in terms of two conflicting models of education: The utilitarian model which is about training someone up to perform specific actions and no more than that, or a model which is about enabling someone to learn and build on their own learning.

As they said: It is far easier to train someone who has been educated than educate someone who has (only) been trained. The risk we run with the model currently in vogue in the DfE is that we are training rather than educating our children.

PointyChristmasFairyWand Wed 04-Dec-13 10:00:08

sadsometimes yes, teaching tables is key. However, there are ways of doing this: 1) endless recitation and memorisation and no more, and 2) identifying the mathematical patterns that occur in multiplication and memorisation.

Either way, practise and is needed, but I would argue that method 2 is going to be far more use later on when children work with much larger numbers and more complex calculations.

wordfactory Wed 04-Dec-13 10:00:13

Yes, we like to convice ourselves that we're highly creative in the UK, that our society is full of independent thinkers.

We yes, that may be. But as DS teachers are forever saying, intellect without knowledge is utterly pointless. The very brightest must learn to conjugate their verbs and remember their formulas.

And the most creative will still need to work their arses off to make their creations work.

If I had a quid for every would-be writer that thinks novels are formed by a secret alchemy of talent and magic...

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 10:00:22

I don't think it matters! I think as long as they learn them by rote and practice practice practice eventually they will 'get' it.

Teaching them why and how can blow their minds and put them off for life. They just need to know that 4 x 4 = 16 and if they learn than without having any understanding of the 'concept' that doesn't matter - if they learn it and start to apply it it will become clear.

MILLYMOLLYMANDYMAX Wed 04-Dec-13 10:01:09

I have seen first hand why we are failing.

Ds, summer born and "dyslexic" could not read or write by the time he entered year 2. He was just 6 years old. From the moment those that entered that year who could not read or write, apart from 10 mins per day "reading" with a TA who used to get annoyed and shout at them when they got a word wrong, there was no help. They had to do the homework and class work that was set for the rest of the class even if that was writing a letter to a shop keeper. By the time the homework was done we were exhausted.
By the end of year 3 the others had left the school because they had moved away and I took my ds out of school to home ed him when the teacher announced that he should possibly be put in the special school as he was below nursery standard and inferred he was mentally subnormal.

My ds went on after 2 1/2 years of home edding to achieve a level 5 in his SATS in Maths, a 4 in Science and a 3 in English. Which I think is incredible considering the base level he had started from.

Given a lot of countries around the world only start school at 7 yet in this country children are written off by the age of 6. I think that is where we need to start.

Timetoask Wed 04-Dec-13 10:04:03

MILLY: did you educate him yourself? Did you hire someone to help you?
Did you follow a certain methodology?
(asking because my son has special needs, would love to be able to help him a bit more, thanks)

noddyholder Wed 04-Dec-13 10:05:32

I think we definitely start too early with formal education.in the UK.

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 10:17:26

Mine all did Ks1 in the village primary and it was very relaxed and mellow, its not until ks2 that 'proper' learning starts - ie times tables, spellings to learn. KS1 should be about learning to enjoy school and starting to follow rules and instructions, learning how to get on with other kids and to respect and like teachers. A bit of competition helps AS LONG AS all kids can achieve in some aspect albeit sport etc. dd3 was never at the top academically but did constantly win friendship awards for being a Generally Good Egg which did her confidence no end of good.

lainiekazan Wed 04-Dec-13 10:18:47

I once nearly blew a gasket on MN when a teacher was throwing a wobbly and saying that learning by rote discriminated against those pupils who had poor memories.

If I ruled the country grin I would rampage through every school and hurl out on their ear every single teacher who had this "race to the bottom" ideology. Just imagine if your dc encountered this teacher who was all for levelling everything down to the least able pupil. Can you imagine a Korean parent's reaction at this sort of teaching?

Likewise when I was a governor I had a bit of a run-in with the Head when I tentatively brought up the issue of music provision. Filing into assembly, during lunchtime, in plays it was pop music, pop music, pop music all the way, and I suggested that it might be nice if they could listen to classical music, or folk etc. Oh, no. Classical music was elitist and children couldn't access it confused . Whaddayado?

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 10:22:33

LOL at pop music how depressing

lainiekazan Wed 04-Dec-13 10:26:20

It wasn't even good pop music. It was "teachers' choice" music which consisted of Dido, Annie Lennox and, interestingly, The Pogues' Fairytale of New York for the Christmas play. Marvellous to see lines of infants singing along with the words to that!!

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 10:31:10

sad what a shame I'd be furious!

Was an interesting though slightly brief discussion about this on newsnight last night.

Was a start Paxman, but can we have more time and depth next time there's a topic which affects the entire next generation and beyond?
Wasn't that impressed by the 3 contributors, though the man that stressed the importance of creativity and problem-solving skills was OK.

Next time can we have someone who knows about early years provision as well - because the differences in this in the different countries will surely be having an effect on student's results when tested a few years later?

NoComet Wed 04-Dec-13 10:47:56

As long as DFs private school is full of SE Asian boarders and they are doing the same GCSEs and A levels as my DDs do for free I'm not going to worry much,

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 10:49:07

creativity and problem solving is a complete red herring IMO

it is perfectly possible to be creative and solve problems AND learn your times tables by rote unless my 7 year old is a weird genius mastermind hmm

PointyChristmasFairyWand Wed 04-Dec-13 10:53:28

Sad I do think it matters, because some time tables have recurring patterns which can actually act as an aid to memory. You don't have to turn them into mathematicians very young, but anything that will help them retain the fundamentals is helpful.

The same thing applies to learning grammar, vocab and irregular verbs - languages have patterns, and recognising those patterns will help a learner remember the essentials of a language. There's a reason why pattern recognition and NVR are key skills in assessing intellectual ability. I think it's perfectly possible to have it both ways - it's certainly how I learned my tables and my MFL.

lainie that is appalling! If children have poor working memory then they should be helped to improve - it is perfectly possible to do that, it just takes time and hard work. Ditto at music - DD1 has been working on songwriting across the genres, analysing how the libretto in opera functions and how it differs in structure to other verbal musical forms. We do need to do something about those schools where a culture of low expectations exists.

Yes, and it's probably easier to solve a problem with logical thinking and accurate computations I would think ss
- but nevertheless I don't think looking at creativity and problem solving skills is a complete red herring - and apparently, according to Newsnight, the OECD don't think so either, as they are planning to assess problem-solving skills too next time
(Think I've got that right)

Summerworld Wed 04-Dec-13 11:12:06

noddyholder: I heard someone on the radio ring in and liken it to adaptation to suit the current and emerging job market ie rising unemployment and no real Uk industry to speak of therefore no demand for highly educated workforce
this is a rubbish argument. It is easy to move around this day and age. You do not have to live and work in the UK all your life. There are many more countries and opportunities. Especially for English speakers (and British passport holders who do not have visa restrictions)!

Summerworld Wed 04-Dec-13 11:31:57

as Gove suggests is the BEST way to learn times tables and its how I taught them to my children, if you know your times tables then you have a bloody good chance of improving at maths.
Personally, I did not know that there is a certain mathematical pattern to a times table. However, I got no problem remembering how much is 5x7. I just know it is 35. The times tables are ingrained and under my skin, even 30 years past school. Maybe because I had to do ten of thousands operations invoilving times tables in maths classes and at home?

It is enriching to know the workings behind the times tables, but in everyday life all you need to know if the answer, and know it quick.
It is no good, on the contrary, to know the workings and not know the answer in an instant.

I remember a Chinese maths tutor at my UK University. We just could not keep up with her, and she genuinely did not get what the problem was - she did not exactly teach difficult stuff. But we were so so much slower in thinking than what she would expect. It is nothing but lack of practice IMO.

Here's some juicy bits (from a recent Reuters report on this) for Early Years practitioners and advocates, like myself (of which I know there are quite a few here on Mumsnet) ......

"Early starters also performed better, with students who attended pre-primary school at about a year ahead of those who did not." smile

And "The OECD recommended in particular that governments subsidise pre-primary education in poor areas"

Strategists, educationalists, and teachers/practitioners take note

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 12:09:10

yes I agree with an early start - a lot of this education game is just practice practice practice - the sooner they get crackign the better IMO, it doesn't need to be hellishly stressful

PointyChristmasFairyWand Wed 04-Dec-13 12:09:53

That's interesting, Juggling. My DDs went to a nursery which had a qualified Foundation teacher and so they started on phonics at around age 3. It was all very playfully done and nothing was forced, but my DDs did come into school quite a long way ahead and reading and writing 'clicked' with them early. The same applied to children coming from the other really good nursery nearby, which used the same strategy. It was very much a nursery setting, not a preschool - no uniform and so on - but education was on offer and widely taken up.

However, those were both very leafy, naice nurseries with parents who were engaged with their children's education. As an engaged and slightly leafy parent myself, I always assumed that background had something to do with it too - things like eating together as a family, limiting tv and consoles, discussing life, the universe and everything and of course reading out loud to our DDs every night (which I still do even now they are 10 and 12 grin)

It's interesting to see these recommendations for poorer areas. Can't see it happening though in the current financial climate.

MILLYMOLLYMANDYMAX Wed 04-Dec-13 12:10:57

Timetoask I just went back to basics. Started using phonic sounds I.e what sounds different letters and letter group sounded like. Started at the first level of books from the library and helped him read a page or 2 noting any words he struggled on. Then going over the words afterwards. Then going over them the following day. I printed them out and cut them up and put them in a bag and at the end of the week pulled them out one by one to see if he could read them. I got KS1 Maths book Science and writing practice books from Smiths. I got the KS1 English but we really struggled with this so left it until he could read. Teaching him Maths was a revelation. If I was so inclined I think I could have had him pass Maths GCSE next summer. He apparently scored 0% in his last exam at school because he could not read the questions.
Ds apart from his handwriting which has not improved despite 2 1/2 years of practice, ( Spoke to a friend whose ds had just been diagnosed with dysgraphia and the symptoms she spoke of could have been said of ds,) has made great strides forward and is most certainly not mentally sub normal.

MILLYMOLLYMANDYMAX Wed 04-Dec-13 12:29:39

Pointy both of mine went to a nursery that taught them phonics etc, we sit down to eat together, we live in nice leafy area, we discuss anything and everything with them and I too read to both each night but dd has been diagnosed as being in the bottom 1% in certain academic areas because of dyslexia and ds was told he was mentally subnormal. However they have opinions and can discuss on all sorts of matters just don't ask them to write them down.

Shootingatpigeons Wed 04-Dec-13 12:30:37

laine summerworld I and my DDs in common with 10 % of the population, not a few of them mathematicians and scientists, including apparently Einstein, have working memory problems. It does mean we will never learn tables via rote learning or have instant retrieval (and I was taught in a 60s grammar school) but it does not mean we can't learn the logic and patterns behind tables and then implement that. Both my DDs have A* in Maths at GCSE and one has A* in Maths at A level and is now studying maths at university for use in manipulating experimental data and I too made extensive use of mathematical skills in gaining various postgrad marketing qualifications and in a long career at senior level, especially in developing sophisticated mathematical models and interpreting statistics

In fact teaching the logic and patterns alongside rote learning will benefit more than just the part of the class that have working memory problems. The point about traditional teaching methods is that they don't suit every child whereas with a mix of teaching methods you can benefit a greater part of the class and hopefully make some progress with the greatest challenge our country faces which is not the standard of our education system at it's best, but rather the inequality of educational outcomes. And quite frankly instant recall of times tables is not what makes a good mathematician, it is instantly being able to activate the logical thinking and to be able to spot patterns at an instinctive level, that is when it becomes a "beautiful mind". My DDs are far better equipped to do that because of the extensive training they have had in strategies for speeding up mental arithmetic, they have even taught me a few!

"It's interesting to see these recommendations for poorer areas. Can't see it happening in the current financial climate" Indeed, Pointy.

Only this week I heard that in my city (outs self further!!) they are cutting the number of Sure Start Children's Centres from 12 to 4. It is out for consultation until the new year (Jan)

Am thinking of starting an online petition against that, as feel strongly that a good start in early years care and education, and the support given to families, makes such a positive difference

Cannot believe we are taking such regressive steps, flying in the face of all research and evidence about what is needed.

oscarwilde Wed 04-Dec-13 12:31:03


I recommend reading the actual report. It's quite interesting and there are some big positives for the UK education system.

Very little has changed since 2006, 2009. Other countries are simply scoring more highly.
UK is at the mean. It's not top for a variety of reasons but it is at the median point along with Ireland, Sweden, France for example. It's quite a way ahead of the USA.

I'd rate it an Ofsted GOOD. It's more a question of whether or not the UK wishes to push it's students into the OUTSTANDING grade and the cost of doing so. Improving truancy ratings would be a good start apparently, as well as socio-disadvantaged students. Both of these areas are far more about cultural values and the importance of education than the actual quality of the teaching.

Shootingatpigeons Wed 04-Dec-13 12:33:04

I should add I am not in the least advocating that those who can should learn tables by rote, just that you also should recognise there are other teaching methods that suit different learning styles and use those as well to the benefit of a greater part of the class.

Shootingatpigeons Wed 04-Dec-13 12:34:08

Sorry * those who can shouldn't learn by rote* not good at proof reading either....

PointyChristmasFairyWand Wed 04-Dec-13 12:37:57

MILLY I totally get that, I was talking about support for NT children living in deprived areas and with more difficult family lives. Support for children with dyslexia and other difficulties is another kettle of fish entirely and I would concur with shooting that there has to be a range of available teaching methods so that all children get a shot at a good education. It is simply not the case that one size fits all, and that also applies to rote learning. One size may fit the majority, but that isn't good enough.

oscar I agree with everything that you have said. Unfortunately everyone seems to want to bewail the fact that we aren't top, and of course bad news makes better headlines than 'actually we are doing quite a few things well and here are some constructive suggestions about what you could be doing better'. There are some inconvenient truths in the report that the government would rather we did not know about because it does not suit its agenda of 1950s one size fits all education on the cheap.

noddyholder Wed 04-Dec-13 12:38:57

Summer we are talking about UK not abroad. Yes if you want to live and work abroad and you are trained in a certain career where there is demand fine but most people want to live in their home country and have a career relationships etc. And whether you like it or not the UK is built on people selling each other over priced houses and drinking bubbly milky coffee There is very little industry and youth unemployment is rising.

Shootingatpigeons Wed 04-Dec-13 12:42:31

I think we should also remember that progress is being made in helping poorer students to have better outcomes. The London challenge which Boris recently tried to muscle in on for a bit of kudos, though he has no responsibility for education, has achieved dramatic improvements in attainment for pupils from poor backgrounds. They have done so through a combination of effective leadership and processes, and sharing best practise, not political dogma. They have proved there is no reason why a school in a deprived area cannot be outstanding and enable it's pupils to achieve their potential. OFSTED has recognised that what has been achieved in London now needs to be achieved in the rest of the country especially in comps in leafy suburbs who do particularly badly by their pupils from poor backgrounds. Doubtless that would go a long way to improve our PISA scores and without Gove poking his nose in.

oscarwilde Wed 04-Dec-13 12:55:56

I've just done the test. Embarrassingly I got two answers wrong .... because I didn't read the question properly. some things never change

3asAbird Wed 04-Dec-13 14:46:30

I think aspiration plays a part.

kids want to be famous reality tv, music, model or footballers.

very few good role models in the main stream.

Plus was touched upon before.

working hard wont guarantee a good job and better life than parents..

The catchments for good schools favour the wealthy.
The high cost higher education,
The fact uk has so many unemployed graduates or low paid doing unskilled part time work.

The head of ofsted said the problems with education are in the leafy suburbs, rural areas and seaside towns where choice is limited I grew up in small rural welsh town with only 1 comp.

I only have 1 child in school year 3 and 2nd starts sept and educational standards locally are inconsistant.

Summerworld Wed 04-Dec-13 18:15:23

I by no means advocated completely ignoring the logic and patterns in maths. Where the "beautiful mind" stuff is concerned, a lot of it cannot be "taught", you either get it or don't. IMHO it is a talent (or inborn IQ), spotting patterns, building mathematical models etc. It is not something people can be instructed upon. Like playing a musical instrument, some people instinctively get it, and others no amount of instruction will help.

With maths, I can see it with my son and it is fascinating. I deliberately do not explain why it works so, I wait for him to make that link and discover a pattern. Normally he does not make me wait. He will work it out based on experience. Knowing models is only any good if you know how to apply them. Too often I witnessed the situation in this country when people struggle with mathematical basics, like calculating percentages, ratios, mental arithmetic with 2-3 digit numbers, beginner algebra, like squared roots etc. This is a far cry from the "beautiful mind".

On the other hand, I value very much the independent thinking in the education system here, creative writing, essays, scientific investigations. Making your individual contribution, not simply conforming to what is considered to be the right answer. This is fantastic.

However, if people grow complacent, it is hardly helping improve standards and move forward. Sometimes a bit of constructive criticism is a good thing.

I also feel that it is going to get increasingly difficult to ignore international competition. I had quite a bit of involvement with graduate schemes, and more often than not businesses choose an overseas graduate over a home-grown one, because not only have they got higher skills, they are humble and do not have the attitude that the world owes them a living. Unless the borders are completely closed off, indigenous population is bound to find themselves competing with skilled and hard-working foreigners, in this country.

Blueberrypots Wed 04-Dec-13 19:46:43

I also feel that it is going to get increasingly difficult to ignore international competition. I had quite a bit of involvement with graduate schemes, and more often than not businesses choose an overseas graduate over a home-grown one, because not only have they got higher skills, they are humble and do not have the attitude that the world owes them a living. Unless the borders are completely closed off, indigenous population is bound to find themselves competing with skilled and hard-working foreigners, in this country

I completely agree with this. I also have a lot of involvement not only with graduate recruitment but junior management roles and we have been increasing looking for candidates from Asia Pac, India, HK and Singapore being favourites.

Talkinpeace Wed 04-Dec-13 20:21:06

But if China had been forced to include its PISA data from the whole country rather than just Shanghai

so that it included peasants who never leave their farms

or India had chosen to take part in this round

then we might have a more realistic impression of how diverse countries truly are

look at where the USA came after all : and they are the only global superpower hmm

Shootingatpigeons Wed 04-Dec-13 20:23:27

I agree, being a former expat myself, but the illusions of entitlement are a feature of British culture frankly and one that gets manifested along with gross cultural insensitivity wherever we operate around the world, often leaving a bad reputation. I am not sure you can address that in the education system, except in improving MFL teaching including non European languages (and please don't come out with the "everyone speaks English thing, of course they do, but learning language helps develop the appreciation of differences, especially a non European one, and a little knowledge and cultural sensitivity really does go a long way when people's perceptions of you start at such a low point) . You could start with Davcam and cronies indulging crowd pleasing stereotypes left right and centre, if they are conducting themselves in the way they did on the last "trade mission" to China books.google.co.uk/books?id=tq1viJQK1AsC&pg=PT3&lpg=PT3&dq=David+Cameron+Poppy+China+Julia+Lovell&source=bl&ots=QspnohabwZ&sig=op73iUWeAW4R6kNmiddcv-QucbQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=iYyfUuPaBZCUhQfvtoHwBg&ved=0CEAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=David%20Cameron%20Poppy%20China%20Julia%20Lovell&f=false

The employment rates from area studies and language courses at good universities in international markets are amongst the best going. You even have natives from other cultures studying their own cultures in the UK, alongside the many studying other subjects.

In reality though the young people who are going to be competing in International markets will have experienced the best opportunities, state and private, the British Education system has to offer and they are not the ones who would not do well in PISA tests.

straggle Thu 05-Dec-13 08:07:25

This blog by a ex-adviser of Gove is really interesting on PISA:


The Far East is dominant, Scandinavia is in decline (especially Sweden), emerging economies are on the rise, Germany and Poland have reduced selection in schools (Poland till after 16 - and it has twice as many high performers in maths as UK/the average).

Unqualified teachers and free schools certainly aren't working in Sweden or the US.

wordfactory Thu 05-Dec-13 08:26:10

Blueberry you are right.

When I began my training contract in the early nineties there was one foreign trainee in my batch (a very quiet Japanese woman).

These days the amount of applicants from overseas is sky high, and the percentage of those successful ever increasing. DH has had trainees from everyhwere from Belgium to Saudi Arabia.

Blueberrypots Thu 05-Dec-13 09:03:27

Thanks Word

Straggle, thanks for posting the link, very interesting. I absolutely agree with this point he makes:

High expectations are absolutely key. The OECD argue that the single biggest reason why the Far East does so well is that they do not have the fixation with innate ability that many Western countries have

MILLYMOLLYMANDYMAX Thu 05-Dec-13 09:04:00

I think the problem with education in some countries it is all about learning by rote reams of facts and figures and with no full understanding about what is actually happening in the world around and it appears to be held in much higher esteem than basic common sense.

I have a friend from one of the countries who put it that in her country the majority of people were incredibly highly qualified but you could not hold a conversation outside of what they had learned from a book. They had no personal opinion on anything, they would just quote verbatim from text they had learned. She was amazed that in this country that you could ask someone who had absolutely no qualifications for an opinion on something and they would give a well thought out coherent answer and actually be able to talk to them about anything. We in this country have opinions on our government, we do not take everything that anyone in power says as correct.
I think the only problem we have is that we start education too early and write children off too soon. In the case of my son he was not only nearly a year behind other children who were in the same class because of his birth date but being a boy he was probably another year behind that too.
I found it very interesting that through out reception and year 1 when the class was streamed all the boys apart from one who was an only child and was the eldest in the class were all on the bottom table. That was 12 boys out of a class of 26.

SuburbanRhonda Thu 05-Dec-13 09:38:17

The biggest concern for me in all of this is the idea that the government is thinking about demanding that teachers teach to the PISA tests in order to improve the UK's rankings.

So we could be abandoning the idea altogether of preparing young people to be a valued and valuable part of society when they leave school, and instead teaching them to compete with young people in those countries where there is no such thing as a child spending too much time studying fsad

lainiekazan Thu 05-Dec-13 09:50:57

Absolutely, TalkinPeace. I was discussing this with dd's piano teacher yesterday and we agreed that the statistics are a bit picky. He was saying that from the sample of children he sees (obviously naice, leafy children) he sees no evidence of place no. 28.

So, in, say, Korea, did they choose this type of child from urban/semi-urban areas and compare these with a child from, say, Grimsby? Likewise in the US were they looking at Connecticut pupils or ones from, say, where HoneyBooBoo comes from (is it Georgia?).

I have family in Finland. They have all had mental breakdowns. The cousin raised to speak five languages is/was an international lawyer. At the moment she is on lithium and hasn't worked for three years. (May be just as dodgy a sample as the educational league tables one, though!!)

Blueberrypots Thu 05-Dec-13 09:54:18

Well I work with people from Asia Pac every day and they have very well formed opinons on everything, I don't recognise the picture depicted here of automatic robots. Granted, we don't talk about politics but in the work arena they certainly hold their own in terms of ideas, value add and performance.

Many actually have deep spiritual and philosophical aptitudes, I noticed some of the quotes and thoughts brought on the table by our Indian colleagues especially, have some very interesting perspectives on things.

On a recent company trip to India we were absolutely trashed to bits in terms of our policies and operations, many of the audience in our conference were people well below our grades and I was surprised in my possibly ignorant attitude, as I was expecting lots of people nodding and agreeing, but that isn't the case at all.

lainiekazan Thu 05-Dec-13 09:55:36

I agree that a proportion of the foreign high achievers may be one-trick ponies.

I was reading somewhere about a management consultancy, can't remember which one, was turning off the world superstar achievers because they lacked that je ne sais quoi that oils the wheels of business.

lainiekazan Thu 05-Dec-13 09:57:10

I think it's more the case with Eurotrashy types. All that glisters is not gold comes to mind.

wordfactory Thu 05-Dec-13 09:57:33

Yup, I work with many colleagues from Asia Pacific and they're certainly not drones... they could run rings round many a supposedly creative MNer wink.

Blueberrypots Thu 05-Dec-13 09:57:55

lainiekazan not sure what piano has to do with Maths and English, with respect. I have a son who is an absolute demon at piano but can't spell, read or do maths for toffee and we have to do all of those with him at home every day. I am not sure his piano teacher has the full picture...unless you are saying that we should measure music in the PISA tests, which could be a very valid consideration.

lainiekazan Thu 05-Dec-13 09:59:52

Music theory?

And piano teacher likes a bit of convo with his pupils.

Blueberrypots Thu 05-Dec-13 10:41:52

fair enough...

sadsometimes Thu 05-Dec-13 10:50:09

Some really misinformed views on kids/people from Asia here shock

We can't hide behind our 'wacky creativity' - its just not facing the facts.

Also many many people from India and Korea are just as gifted creatively as they are in business as some have mentioned here, thank goodness.

Shootingatpigeons Thu 05-Dec-13 12:25:05

sadsometimes and your opinions are based on? Mine are based on living in China and talking to people whose children are in the local systems, or indeed who have chosen to send their children to western schools because of their dissatisfaction with the local system. It is also the result of studying and working with people who have been through the Hong Kong and Chinese systems and really do find it hard at first when called on for opinion and ideas. We have had kenlee comment on here from Hong Kong who has sent his children to school here. Most of the Hong Kong and Shanghai elites send their children through some form of western education, granted it is partly a matter of status, and reflects the importance placed on making the right contacts but it is also very much a result of not wanting their children in a system that traditionally (with cultural roots going back hundreds of years in the Imperial exam system) values rote learning over critical and creative thinking. Of course human beings being human beings, people adapt to new working and social environments and develop the necessary skills in other ways. I cannot comment on India who in any case did not take part in the PISA tests.

In any case as an earlier commenter highlighted you cannot detach an education system from it's cultural roots. What works in China for Chinese Society, where hierarchies and the importance of informal networks of influence (guanxi) means business works in more organic ways, and the skills that are important in that environment, entrepreneurial and networking skills tend to be learnt outside of formal education (though still from birth), would not necessarily work in our culture (though of course as has been debated on here informal networks matter a lot more than most people will admit). In any case there is also a whole different and interesting debate on how the difference in our written languages, our structurally complex but alphabetical language versus one that is grammatically quite simple (little us of tenses, context is used instead) but requires the learning of literally thousands of characters which uses a different sort of memory.

Plus of course I am quite sure the PISA tests were developed and implemented "organically" too! for a start they were only implemented in Shanghai and Hong Kong.....

Shootingatpigeons Thu 05-Dec-13 12:26:54

Sorry my ipad keeps making inappropriate use of exclamation marks....

Blueberrypots Thu 05-Dec-13 12:48:26

I think both views are valid though, e.g. the view of someone looking at and deeply understanding an education system and someone looking at what it produces at the end. Of course education systems are not the only factor in a person's outcome, but surely the habit of hard work, skills development (of whatever type) and high expectations on oneself are skills that can be portable in whatever environment/cultural set up.

I think the truth lies somewhere in between, it isn't so much about what type of education a child receives and in which cultural context, but much more about what sort of expectations are placed on them by society (family, school, etc) and how much someone is used to sitting down to learn/work.

There is a crisis in large groups of western youths, where they are so shrouded in cotton wool, they can't get tired, they can't get cold/wet/upset/stressed/disappointed/pushed/reprimanded, we are too overprotective towards our young and as an employer I can really see the result in their (lack of) attitude towards hard graft. Many young people just believe that with minimum effort they will waltz in and earn 50k, they will not listen to what is required and have quite an entitled/arrogant attitude.

There are some very notable exceptions of course, from all walks of life, I have met some amazing young people coming through, but when we have started recruiting from Asia in general we haven't found the same issues at all and you can perceive the absolute willingness to work hard even at interview stage - maybe it isn't down to their education system, maybe it's just down to their family environment or a mix of both.

wordfactory Thu 05-Dec-13 13:01:21

Something that rang true for me in the Amy Chua book, was that Chinese parents see strength in their DC and western parents too often see weakness.

Here on MN and in RL I'm often shock at how over protective and defensive so many parents are. They assume their DC are going to crumble at the least problem. They want their DC's lives to be a twinkly round of magic and glitter...

Then they wonder why their DC are toddler-like in their late teens.

Shootingatpigeons Thu 05-Dec-13 13:08:56

It would be entirely wrong to underestimate the value of encouraging critical thinking and creativity in our schools. As my DD's Head says perhaps knowledge has been devalued in our system eg in History GCSE text books but there is a real danger it will be now given a priority at the expense of the importance of critical thinking that will see the pendulum swing too far the other way. It would be a great shame if in so doing we lost the competitive advantage in international job and education markets that that has given us. At it's best our education system is one of the best in the world and attracts students from across the world. Where it is weak is the equality of opportunity (which is still well ahead of China where if you do not have the money, schools are more expensive in rural areas, and, in the city, official right of residence, then you have no access to education at all, only 80% of children attend primary and middle school) It is initiatives like the London challenge which rely on improvement of leadership and processes, and sharing of best practise by the education professionals that have been shown to deliver that improvement in outcomes not wholesale tinkering with the curriculum and the exam system ( which most professional agree will worsen outcomes for students from poor backgrounds)

laine my DDs friend returned from a (very good ) British system international school to a Finnish school at 11. What really stood out for her was that there was little testing but that the teacher had the freedom and time (they only teach in the classroom for part of the working day, the rest is for preparation) to tailor the education to the individual. She was well ahead of the rest of the class but she was encouraged to continue developing at her pace without any sort of formal testing of levels for the whole class. She didn't sit an exam until 17. She is now at LSE. I am not sure where the stress creeps in?

PointyChristmasFairyWand Thu 05-Dec-13 13:44:32

wordfactory I haven't read Amy Chua's book, but following on from what shooting was saying I was going to say just that...

I don't see it as just being the parents though, I see it as the schools, our society, our whole culture. I think shifting the focus to what our children can do and building on that is key to the whole thing, because I truly don't believe that there are children who can do nothing.

However, a 'one size fits all' education system will not work in that context. It isn't about not stressing the little darlings (though I do have issues with starting formal education very early), it's about recognising that children develop at different rates. All you have to do is look at the way reading develops - some children will be fluent readers with good comprehension at age 5, for others it does not 'click' until they are 7. That doesn't mean you give up on the ones who get there later, it means you develop teaching strategies that will support them in reaching their as yet untapped potential.

MillyMollyMama Thu 05-Dec-13 14:46:04

The big problem we have is that the lowest achievers do not "click" at all, Pointy. Many cannot access the secondary curriculum so never catch up their peers. The reason why we are lower than we should be in the tables is that we have about 20% underachieving. (See article in the Times yesterday). If we could put more resources into early nursery places, one to one teaching, parental responsibility, etc we may be able to raise the lower attaining figure to only 5% as in other countries. This would give us a completely different ranking. We know we have this stubborn group of underachievers but all we hear about is grammar schools! Our best children are as good as those anywhere in the world.

PointyChristmasFairyWand Thu 05-Dec-13 15:50:42

Absolutely right, MillyMollyMama and one of the people behind the report highlighted just that - our top achievers do very well, but we have a larger body of low achievers than other countries and they pull down the average. Early nursery places, one to one teaching and assistance for parents are all good, but I think we need more - we need to make UK society less unequal.

Part of that is making work pay more - especially low paid work. We will always have low paid work, there are just jobs that need doing. How do you motivate someone to go out and take up a job that's a first step on the ladder when they know damn well they are going to end up financially worse off (mainly because of the cost of childcare) than they are not working? Investing in excellent affordable childcare is a win-win - good for the children, good for the parent. Alongside that I'd also like to see the length of parental (not: maternity) leave that means very young babies don't have to go into childcare. Don't get me wrong, mine were in nursery from 6 months and they thrived, but 1) not all childcare settings are the same and 2) not all children are the same.

It's complicated and there are no easy solutions to the stubborn problem of underachievement in the UK. I do know that importing the Asian culture of relentless study is not going to work here, and that I don't want the suicide rates that accompany that culture.

MillyMollyMama Thu 05-Dec-13 16:19:42

We need greater analysis to find out who is underachieving and why. I have a feeling affordable childcare is not the answer as the parents with lower achieving children may not be the parents who would use it unless they were forced to. Are these children really from parents who are desperate to be in the workforce? I suspect many are not. Just because a parent is not working, does not mean a child is underachieving either so whilst affordable childcare meets some needs, it is a case of making sure all the children likely to under-perform are given extra care/opportunities so they do not get so far behind.

Interestingly, there is increasing concern in Sweden that parents have lost parenting skills due to childcare being available cheaply to everyone. They are worried about teen behaviour as parents increasingly expect the state to bring up their children due to the long hours Swedish children spend in child care settings. Be careful what you wish for is the message from Sweden!

When I was working I chaired a committee of social workers, nursery teachers, educational psychologists, early years specialists, and health professionals to allocate children places in our nursery schools earlier than normal. This was based on need, home situation, achievement of milestones etc. The places were free. My area was pretty "leafy lane" but we had lots who needed the places. I can also tell you that many of the families trying to bring up these children were totally chaotic. They were not wanting affordable childcare. They were needing a total overhaul of their lives. This is the sort of intervention we need. Targeted, specific, high quality and designed to make a difference.

straggle Thu 05-Dec-13 19:24:01

you cannot detach an education system from its cultural roots

agree, nor can you detach it from the economy. The UK is still above average for science and that's where we are seeing innovation. We no longer have the manufacturing base of the Far East or European countries like Poland which have kept those economies out of recession. If the UK is standing still (or just keeping up but not overtaking), but there is a divided educational picture regionally, it's reflecting the divided economic picture.

MillyMollyMama Fri 06-Dec-13 00:26:21

Just heard the debate on Question Time. Well done Mary Beard. The only person who had bothered to investigate the questions asked in these tests.

Kenlee Fri 06-Dec-13 01:50:56

All I can say is that I allowed my daughter to attend a local Hong Kog school with all the pressures attatched. Yes that also meant a lot of rote learning and alot of extra out of school tution. I suspect the reason why the Shanghai and Hong Kong kids have better results are because they are tutored.

My daughters British school is quite good and the quality of education is outstanding. She now preforms well not because of tutoring which she has no access too but because of a desire to do well. I think her formative years of rote learninng has helped her to assimilate knowledge quickly..

She has now been taught to think analytically. Which gives her the best of both worlds. As for contacts I think we should be ok on that front. So the school doesnt really need to provide that for us.

So NO I dont think all British schools are crap....

Vietnammark Fri 06-Dec-13 02:46:17

Been working in Education in Vietnam for the past 20 years.

Good to see Vietnam join these rankings and as suspected they have done very well in the maths and sciences. Not sure how they measure reading skills as Vietnamese is totally phonetic, with very simple grammar and a very small vocabulary so any Vietnamese native speaker who goes to school for a few years can obviously read Vietnamese well.

I have never seen a Vietnamese person look up a Vietnamese word in a dictionary. My Vietnamese is not that good, but if there is an English word I don't know then I can often understand it if I am given the Vietnamese equivalent, as Vietnamese words are much simpler to understand.

Obviously they are measuring your skill rather than how difficult it was to achieve that skill.

Vietnamese are highly critical of their education system and they regard the British and American education systems as being vastly superior to their own.

Vietnamese kids study a huge amount and have no time for anything else so most city kids don't know anything that is not in their school curriculum. There curriculum puts a lot of focus on maths and science and gives very little input in the arts, sports, music, etc.. It seems as if the PISA tests were specifically designed for them. Even though the PISA tests suggest Vietnamese students know a lot, I regard Vietnamese as being intelligent, but ignorant.

Believe it is Education New Zealand that says something like, "Education is what you have left when you have forgotten everything you have been taught". By this definition, the Vietnamese education system is seriously lacking.

I feel kids in the UK study too little (or at least waste too much of their spare time on rubbishy activities) and kids in Vietnam study too much. Also feel that what the UK needs to improve its results is parents that are more involved in their children's education, and more emphasis put on getting, training and retaining better teachers.

Summerworld Fri 06-Dec-13 09:28:59

*Shootingatpigeons Thu 05-Dec-13 12:25:05
Hong Kong and Chinese systems and really do find it hard at first when called on for opinion and ideas.*
I come from an Eastern European country, but I know exactly what the poster means. An idea of an essay where you present a rounded and weighted opinion, with pros and cons, is very difficult to grasp for people in my culture. There is a set of "right" attitudes and everybody is just expected to uphold those. Here, thinking is more individualistic, people are not expected to conform to a particular attitude and are expected have their own ideas. Wrt to essay writing, you need to be able to present the argument against just as well as the argument for something. The valid arguments against is something my culture would struggle with, people are not expected to go against the society's values and attitudes, so naturally find it difficult.

Too often, rather than voicing what YOU think, eastern students would wonder what are they supposed to think? How SHULD this question be answered? It is the culture and this is a lot more powerful than any education.

I remember as a teenager still back home, I was struck by how a group of Americans debated an issue. They had VERY different opinions, but the was no hint of "my opinion is better than yours", they valued and respected any of the opinions on the table. Each person's standpoint was as valid as anybody else's. And the presumption was there was no right or wrong way to think. This is just so foreign in my native culture. Everybody knows what is the right way to think and to behave and people are expected not to deviate from that. This is little to do with education, it is culture.

However, regarless of the considerations above, there is no excuse not to know your times times or not being able to do mental arithmetic with 3-digit numbers. Culture is irrelevant here, it is pure ignorance.

zooweemumma Fri 06-Dec-13 09:36:13

That's fascinating vietnammark

zooweemumma Fri 06-Dec-13 09:38:53

I agree kids in the UK study too little. I often see kids walking home from state school at 2.30, seems such a waste of the day! But mine are at private school so have long holidays, but their school day runs from 8.30 - 4.30 then sport until 6 plus Saturday school shock

Summerworld Fri 06-Dec-13 09:39:21

Blueberry: I can really see the result in their (lack of) attitude towards hard graft. Many young people just believe that with minimum effort they will waltz in and earn 50k, they will not listen to what is required and have quite an entitled/arrogant attitude.
Yes, I see that too. And as soon as the young realise that an awful lot of hard work is needed to get even £20K, they just lose heart altogether and get despondent. Why bother, it is too much, it is too difficult. No point trying if it means they will have to wait 15 years for that £50K salary. Waiting is just not an option. Really a regretful attitude.

MILLYMOLLYMANDYMAX Fri 06-Dec-13 10:29:36

zooweemumma a couple of state schools around here start at 8am and finish at 2.30pm but then they have shorter holidays than private schools. Df has children in a school who runs similar to your dc and they have 3 months off for summer holidays 6 weeks of at christmas and at least a month off at Easter and 2 weeks instead of the usual 1 week for half term. Equally dd goes to a particular school that only operates the academic curriculum on 3 days per week. They all have high pass rates in GCSE's so I do not think more school time is necessarily making a lot of difference.

MIllyMollyMamma I don't think targeting nursery education is the answer. I think it is more about some children not being ready to learn until later on. My son was not ready at 4 to go to school to learn stuff even though he had attended a really nice nursery before hand. It went completely over his head. He described his teacher as a woman who stands at the front going blah blah blah and the highlight of his day being when he played out with his friends and in the afternoon he played Lego.

If he had started to learn in year 2 then I really think I would not have had to home ed him to bring him up to a certain standard. I shudder to think what would have happened if I had been unable to home ed. I think this is where the problems lie. By the time my ds came round to the idea that he was ready to learn the teaching system effectively turned round and said TOO LATE.

As I have said before you only have to look at a class in reception and year 1 and 2 where they place them in sets to see that the majority of boys are at this stage are in the bottom set. The only way out appears to be hire a tutor (around here that is £50 per hour) or home ed and leave the system all together.

Orangeanddemons Fri 06-Dec-13 11:24:04

I teach in a leafy suburb secondary school. Our underachievers tend to be lazy and entitled. Ime there are two types of underachievement in the UK

Those who don't value education and don't care. However, they could achieve with the right type of education for them.

Then there are those who are lazy and entitled. I do believe this is a harder nut to crack, and a very different type of student to the one above.

Shootingatpigeons Fri 06-Dec-13 13:03:34

summerworld you clearly read my post of Wednesday at 12.30. I don't know my times tables. So I find your comment offensive. In common with 10 % of the population I have problems with working memory but I am far from ignorant. I can however access them with varying degrees of speed depending on various strategies, I ate and I eat and was sick on the floor gets me to 8*8 and then mental arithmetic can get me into the murky world of the 7s and 8s. The 10* less the number gets me to 9* etc. etc. etc. I do hope what you mean is that all young people should be equipped with the maths they need for everyday life, buying a carpet etc. and that will be a base for the further maths they may need in academic or business life.

I went to a very traditional grammar school, they really didn't know what to do with me. They knew I was clever but frustratingly never showed it in any test environment where there were time limits, their conclusion was that I was lazy and didn't put the time into learning my work though I did *2 . Luckily we had a Maths teacher who believed that understanding the logic was more important than getting the answers right and drummed it into us at a speed every member of the class could keep up with and repeated it again and again until we did. She was a quiet mouse, not at all a charismatic inspirational teacher but I often mentally thank her for departing from the chalk and talk, rote learning to test norm of teaching in the school. Now if I need to understand the demand curve for work I may not exactly recall the formulae or method, may even have never been formally taught the more advanced methods but I can access the logic behind calculus and get there.

As I said in my post using a variety of teaching styles and judging outcomes in a way that is not dependent on rote learning are important to ensuring that all pupils are enabled not to be ignorant.

Summerworld Sat 07-Dec-13 00:50:21

Shooting, I am sorry if I offended you. Your case does sound rather extraordinary. The majority of your class would have been absolutely fine with a bit of rote learning, same as the majority in any school. Yes, by all means, it helps to know and understand the logic, but it takes an awful lot longer to go through the chain you have described than recall 3*7=21 from memory. As somebody who had taught several dyslexic pupils, I am well aware that their literacy problems had nothing to do with being thick, rather not being able to respond in the same way to the teaching methods majority of pupils are perfectly OK with. Nevertheless, if a method works for the majority, why discount and rubbish it? Your case is not all that common, rather very uncommon indeed.

Kenlee Sat 07-Dec-13 01:13:06

shooting Im rather happy that you went to a good grammar and was picked up by a very good teacher.

I am sure all British schools and most British students can always identify with a teacher who had helped them and mentor them. Who would spent time with their pupils and not just the bright ones who get the results.

That is British schooling getting the child to fulfill their potential. To be the very best they can be. Often agaisnt great odds. Its not only about results it about how yiu face the world.

I know I have local hk and foreign workers. I use them to their strengths. The hard graft is done by the locals because once told how they are quick and accurate. Something foreign workers seem unable to do. Thinking is mostly done by foreign workers as they think out of the box. The locals akways say it has always been done this way.

I prefer my daughter to be a thinker but with a good grounding in rote learning.....I do think both can go hand in hand

MillyMollyMama Sat 07-Dec-13 01:14:41

MillyMollyandMax. It is completely unrealistic to think that our underachieving 20% could be home educated because they are not ready for school. The whole purpose of nursery education is to prepare for learning. We know we have very many parents who are unable to prepare their children to learn, whether that is at 4, 5 or a bit older. I agree that some children do take a bit longer and then catch up but we also know that a very large number do not. They are not from home ed type families, are they? So, our choice should be, as a nation, to intervene early. Boys were not all in the bottom set where my children went to school by the way. This is stereotypical and just plain wrong. Why would you assume a boy would not be ready to learn along with his peers? This just does not happen in many other countries. No-one is saying it is too late to learn and catch up but, there is overwhelming evidence that we have very many children who never catch up, gain adequate qualifications or will ever be employable.

Shootingatpigeons Sat 07-Dec-13 08:30:32

summer that is the point, it is not very uncommon. My DDs go/went to one of the most selective schools in the country and in common with schools like Westminster and Kings College School they find that with effective screening they do indeed find that 10 % of their cohort are dyslexic or have some form of Specific Learning Difficulty, in line with what research shows to be the proportion of the population. That means that in a class of 30, 3 will need some alternative learning approach, not only that but using a variety of teaching methods has been shown to be of benefit to others in the class. As I have said before rote learning as an approach is fine but not in isolation. You can be accurate and a thinker.

sashh Sat 07-Dec-13 10:09:25

I don't get it. Overseas in U.A.E. and Malaysia the british curriculum is highly rated and locals (and expats) pay an arm and a leg to send their children to the prestigious British Curriculum international schools....it can be that bad...

Well the tests are only in three subjects, I'm sure the parents want their children to learn more than 3 subjects.

MillyMollyMama Sat 07-Dec-13 20:20:58

And at the top end we are as good as anyone. Our schools are pretty good at the top bed too. Our universities are sought after. It is our 20% at the bottom that brings us down.

MillyMollyMama Sat 07-Dec-13 20:25:15

Oops! Top end I meant to say.

Summerworld Sat 07-Dec-13 21:27:10

Shooting, 10% special learning needs pupils does not surprise me. However, I do not see the sense of teaching the other 90% using the methods and speed suitable for the 10% minority. From my (limited) experience with dyslexic pupils, they needed a lot more time to do the same reading and writing tasks. They would really have been best in a small group with a dedicated teaching assistant, rather than ploughing on with the rest of the class at a much faster speed. It is not that they are stupid, but as you said, they had to devise their own strategies to do the same thing in a round-about way. This is what took the time. It is no good saying one size fits all. Some pupils just need more support and more time, but everybody is capable of achieving good outcomes. Ideally, as the other poster said, some sort of rote learning should be used to speed up simple tasks and build solid foundations, but the understanding and creativity should also be there. Creativity with no grounding will lead nowhere.

MILLYMOLLYMANDYMAX Sat 07-Dec-13 23:59:17

MMM I am not saying that children should be home edded but more about making sure that instead of getting to year 2 and turning around to them to say that everyone has to follow this curriculum and everyone has to do the same homework etc what ever level children are at. But continue with some form of streaming where the children who need the help get the help and are taught in their group at a lower level concentrating on the basics of reading, writing and maths. Ds could not read or write and was given homework every night along the lines of write a poem, write a letter, write a story. Have you ever tried to get a child to write a story when they find it near impossible to write individual letters. By the time the homework was done we were all exhausted and he hated school.
There could be more done re testing for dyslexia, dyspraxia etc not just telling a parent that a teacher thinks there is a problem, we think your dc is dyslexic then not going anywhere with it.
I have spent hours and hours on the phone and Internet trying to get dd and ds help but have came up against a brick wall.

Summer- the fact that they are only testing for dyslexia in senior school not in primary means there is a group who are slipping through the net. These pupils have been thru primary and junior school struggling. Dd was tested by her school in yr7 despite her teachers saying they thought she was dyslexic in reception. She has only a few weeks ago had the proper psych ed test to tell us that she was worse than we thought she was. (bottom 1percentile for writing and spelling, top percentile in speach and verbal expression). She is in yr9

Also I am not trying to be stereotypical in ds's and dd's classes in reception and year 1 when they streamed them the majority of boys were on the bottom set table. Equally in dd's class at the moment the 7 children who have dyslexia, 5 are boys and only 1 other girl is dyslexic apart from my dd.

Shootingatpigeons Sun 08-Dec-13 09:20:57

summer so you do not see the sense of the shift from teaching reading purely via look /see to giving all pupils the phonic tools that my DD had to be taken out of the classroom to learn via intensive intervention, because now they realise the majority of pupils do benefit? You do not see the sense of using more active learning in the classroom, following research that shows that learning will be more effective if pupils have had to work harder to access knowledge and skills applies not just to pupils with SpLDs? The traditional chalk and talk, teaching to tests of rote learning most suits an equally small number of pupils with particular strengths and learning styles, but excludes a lot more than just those with SpLDs. The latest OFSTED annual review makes it very explicit that they don't favour a particular teaching style, that what matters is effective teaching and improved outcomes for all pupils.

We do badly in PISA tests not because of the pupils that traditional teaching methods include but because so many pupils are being excluded, and as OFSTED highlights teachers are too readily prepared to tolerate a culture that accepts poor outcomes for those pupils, especially in affluent suburbs.

PointyChristmasFairyWand Sun 08-Dec-13 14:52:20

shooting you've put your finger on it. We need
1) An end to the one size fits all teaching - OFSTED doesn't seem to want it, so Michael Gove should now shut up about the need for 'traditional teaching methods'.
2) An end to low expectations - every child should reach their potential, and this also means
3) The implementation of excellent vocational and skills education, underpinned by solid teaching of functional literacy and numeracy to the age of 18. Not everyone needs to be able to do quadratic equations, but everyone does need to be able to budget and manage their wider finances.
4) Following on from 3) we need to start appreciating all the skills and talents people have and stop slavishly adoring all things academic to the exclusion of everything else.

Talkinpeace Sun 08-Dec-13 15:47:13

so for christmas we really want is a reshuffle that sends Gove and his Acolytes to another planet fwink

Every Child Matters

my client "dan the digger"
cannot read or write (much) is dire at maths
you want to investigate unknown underground pipes on a building site, one of which may be live gas
and he's your man
he works all over the south
for remarkably good pay
doing what no sane bugger will do
and quadratic equations are no use to him
(and he pays me on time)
was never happier than up to his hips in broken sewer in my garden when the ground was frozen to 2 feet down
nutter but essential nutter who should be valued

PointyChristmasFairyWand Sun 08-Dec-13 16:13:02

Talkinpeace if only we could afford a space programme, then yes! fgrin.

Donki Sun 08-Dec-13 16:25:20

Hey! Why don't we crowd source a rocket for that purpose? I'd contribute...

Kickstarter here we come!

PointyChristmasFairyWand Sun 08-Dec-13 16:34:40

I'd donate quite a lot to that space programme, Donki fsmile

Talkinpeace Sun 08-Dec-13 16:45:08

one way trip .....

Donki Sun 08-Dec-13 16:47:28


Or alpha centauri?

PointyChristmasFairyWand Sun 08-Dec-13 17:36:02

Nah, straight into the sun.

Donki Sun 08-Dec-13 19:42:45


cory Tue 10-Dec-13 21:03:01

Interesting to see that Sweden has taken such a nose-dive.

Though as my dad (a retired teacher) points out, this may not be entirely due to current policy but also due to the fact that the progressive teaching ideas of the 70s and 80s are now in full force in the schools, as the teachers who were trained then are now middle-aged and heads of their subjects.

When I was a child at school in Sweden in the 70s the education system was thought to be very progressive and the country was held up abroad as an example of progressive pedagogy working, but ime most of the actual teachers out in the schools stuck to their oldfashioned ideas and quietly ignored the progressive signals from above. Officially we were modern, autonomous learners, in real life we spent a lot of time learning French irregular verbs by heart (and very useful it was too). That's when we were top of the leagues.

straggle Wed 11-Dec-13 07:40:11

The Swedish free school policy sounds horrific - things have changed a lot since you went to school. 'Easier to set up a free school than a hot dog stand' and more likely to go bust?!


SatinSandals Wed 11-Dec-13 08:45:05

I think that you may have hit on a good point, cory. In 60s and 70s in UK many teachers stuck with their tried and tested methods and there was more freedom, on the whole they were allowed to or they just paid lip service to new methods. Now it is all imposed from above and has to be adhered to, except by the exceptional teacher who can be a bit of a maverick and successful ( and dares try).

Ingrid1964 Thu 26-Dec-13 01:34:09

The difference between a top 3 place in the PISA analysis and the UK's position is barely statistically significant.

If you send all the low achieving children home on the day of the PISA test, then yep.....you're going to do better (friend who teaches in Shanghai and whose school features in the most recent PISA stats).

Teachers are respected in S. E. Asia.......here we have that good old saying: "if you can't do it, teach it....." In Scotland, it takes 6 years to train as a teacher: 4 years for first degree; 1 year for pdge and I year probationary teaching.............Kids are not stupid: they learn in an environment created by adults and if their parents do not respect teachers, then why should they?

English is a complex and challenging language which takes years to fully master.....Finnish is not.

If the English / Scottish education system was so bad..........why do so many International Schools choose it over the IB, or any other system?

Culture.........Scandinavia and S. E. Asia are more cohesive societies with a greater shared sense of community and values.

In the UK, education is intensely politicised. In Scandinavia and S. E. Asia, teachers are treated as experts and professionals. This results is far greater stability in the curriculum (and respect).

As the much travelled Finnish minister for education recently said....."You cannot transplant the Finnish model into the UK. Finnish society, culture and values are just too different". We need to look at the failings of our society, rather than the competency of our teachers, or the rigour of our curriculum.

TalkinPeace Thu 26-Dec-13 16:51:55

How are we doing on fundraising for Gove's space flight :-)

Because it is constant ill informed meddling and tinkering by he and his ilk that are part of the UKs problem

Retropear Thu 26-Dec-13 17:13:57

Parents pushing kids and expecting them to do well is frowned on in this country by media,gov and teachers.

That I think is a major issue re lack lustre results and a huge difference when comparing the UK to other more successful countries.

TalkinPeace Thu 26-Dec-13 17:18:00

Parents pushing kids and expecting them to do well is frowned on in this country by media,gov and teachers

links please

as DCs school is not like that
the schools that DH goes to are not like that
and Gove's free school programme encouraging parents to set up schools is not like that

Retropear Thu 26-Dec-13 17:25:04

Nah not into linking.

Media-check out The Daily a Wail et al re pushy parents and MN.Even doing homework is deemed pushy these days.

Sorry imvho as an ex teacher and parent schools do judge parents that push and expect results.Great the 2 schools you have experience off don't well pretty much every school I have experienced in both capacities do.

The gov is forever slagging off sharp elbowed parents when it suits.

Re tinkering sorry a lot of it was much needed.I taught pre NC,literacy hour and emphasis on phonics and since. Imvho primary education is much better now.

teachersaspirations Fri 27-Dec-13 01:15:59

"Teachers are respected in S. E. Asia.......here we have that good old saying: "if you can't do it, teach it....." In Scotland, it takes 6 years to train as a teacher: 4 years for first degree; 1 year for pdge and I year probationary teaching.............Kids are not stupid: they learn in an environment created by adults and if their parents do not respect teachers, then why should they?"

Great words but that sounds as if teachers are infallible
parents are certainly not infallible, I am not

I want the best for my kids (but not at the expenses of other kids)

Do you want parents support (which also means constructive disagreement sometimes)?

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