PISA results show little progress for the UK

Dec 2016
Pisa results disappointing for the UK
The PISA tests are taken by 15-year-olds across the globe.

The UK has made little progress moving up the global schools rankings, according to the latest PISA results tables, released by the OECD on Tuesday (6 December).

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests are taken by 15-year-olds across the globe, testing their abilities in the three core academic disciplines of maths, reading and science. The standardised tests crucially allow each education system to be directly measured against their international counterparts.

Much the same as the 2012 results, Asian countries, including China (Singapore, Hong Kong, & Macao), Japan and Taiwan, dominate the upper leagues of the tables.

The UK is still outside of the top 20 in both maths and reading, having placed 27th and 22nd respectively, despite much government emphasis on educational reforms and improving schools' performances over the last few years. Notably the UK has broken into the top 20 for science.

The OECD's education director, Andreas Schleicher, described the UK's mid-table results as "flat in a changing world."

Timothy Corns, Kumon Educational UK & Ireland's Schools Project Manager, sees the results in a different light.

He said: "The results have been disappointing for the whole of the UK but perhaps particularly so for Scotland, which was expected to do a lot better. Interestingly following the introduction of the curriculum for excellence Pisa themselves were expecting to see improvements from 2012. All countries within the UK performed less well (in terms of test scores) than four years ago, however whereas England's performance was in line with the average decline of all countries tested, for Scotland the decrease was a lot sharper.

"What PISA does very well is to examine the outcomes across society and in this regard Scotland has been criticized for some time for failing their disadvantaged children. This result will I think only heighten calls for Scotland to introduce its own version of the Pupil Premium grant which has been running in England since 2011. The introduction of the Pupil Premium in England has started to have a positive impact on helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds to better perform and realise their potential.

"Following the continued success of Asian countries, I also wouldn't be surprised if Scotland follows England's path and creates a budget for primary school mastery and fluency provision.

"Off the back of the previous results in 2012, in England there have been a raft of educational reforms designed to help English pupils close the gap with their international peers. These have included changes to the national curriculum, Year 2 and Year 6 primary school testing, and the reforms to secondary school provision, designed to better support children of all abilities to achieve in their GCSEs.

"Perhaps most significantly however, was the announcement in July this year of an additional 40 million pounds for fluency and mastery maths training across 50% of primary schools in England. This training is a direct attempt to replicate the successful teaching methods associated with the consistent high-performers of Shanghai, Singapore and Japan.

"Far from 'rote learning' the mastery and fluency approach allows students to have sufficient practice at a piece of work or topic before moving on. As a specialist in this field for over 60 years, Kumon combines the mastery and fluency method with work individualised for each child allowing them to progress at a rate which is tailored to them. Not only does this positively affect their engagement, but crucially gives them a real 'I can attitude' in maths and English which supports them through school and beyond.

"Despite the disappointing result, PISA does provide educators within the UK with an excellent platform to take stock of current education provision and share ideas and best practice from around the world. This can only be a good thing for children in Scotland and across the UK to better support their learning and realise their potential."