Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What factors create better schools? Lessons from the international tests...

Asia-Pacific economies absolutely dominated the most recent PISA international student assessment tests.

Shanghai, China took the top spot in all three subject areas—reading, math, and science. Other Asia-Pacific outperformers were South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.

Our neighbor to the north, Canada, also outperformed the international average in all three subject areas. The United States, however, was mediocre. So were the big five European Union countries—Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain.

Here are some finding from the OECD about what causes educational outperformance:
  • Successful school systems provide all students, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds, with similar opportunities to learn.
  • Most successful school systems grant greater autonomy to individual schools to design curricula and establish assessment policies, but these school systems do not necessarily allow schools to compete for enrolment.
  • School systems considered successful tend to prioritise teachers’ pay over smaller classes.
  • The greater the prevalence of standards-based external examinations, the better the performance.
  • Schools with better disciplinary climates, more positive behaviour among teachers and better teacher-student relations tend to achieve higher scores in reading.
  • After accounting for the socio-economic and demographic profiles of students and schools, students in OECD countries who attend private schools show performance that is similar to that of students enrolled in public schools.

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