The Programme for International Student Assessments (PISA) rankings were published on 6 December. These put UK schools in the 20s among the 72 countries surveyed.
Socialists don′t put great store by the PISA ratings, which measure different nations academic achievements by testing 15 and 16 year olds in maths, science and reading. However, the UK’s poor results do demonstrate that, even by their own standards, the Tories model for education is failing.
Whilst not perfect, Finland provides a model that is more effective according to PISA and, more importantly, is less harmful to children. In Finland children do not start school until seven, children in Britain start at four years old. In 2010, Finnish children aged 9-11 spent an average 640 hours in school a year; in England the average was 899 hours. There are no mandatory standardised tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. In Britain we test children from the moment they enter school, with three sets of tests before the child leaves primary school at 11.
The ranking the UK improved the most in was science — where standardised tests at primary school have been dropped. In Finland, there are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. In Britain we have league tables for school performance and grading of, virtually every part of our school-life.
Finland’s schools are all publicly funded. In Britain we have private schools. In Finland there is no expectation for students to do homework. In Britain our pupils suffer with onerous amounts of homework. PISA reckons Finland’s students are more successful. They are certainly less prone to mental health problems and happier than their British counterparts. And socialists care passionately about that.