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Copy of What does the OECD PISA report tell us about improving our schools? by Mind Map: Copy of What does the OECD PISA report
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Copy of What does the OECD PISA report tell us about improving our schools?

Making things better


With teachers, quality matters more than quantity, In most countries, except Turkey, Slovenia, Russia and the US, poorer children get more teachers - but not usually better ones. Their teachers tend to be less qualified., "School systems considered successful tend to prioritise teachers’ pay over smaller classes.", "At the level of the school system and net of the level of national income, PISA shows that higher teachers’ salaries, but not smaller class sizes, are associated with better student performance. Teachers’ salaries are related to class size in that if spending levels are similar, school systems often make trade-offs between smaller classes and higher salaries for teachers. The findings from PISA suggest that systems prioritising higher teachers’ salaries over smaller classes tend to perform better, which corresponds with research showing that raising teacher quality is a more effective route to improved student outcomes than creating smaller classes."

It doesn't matter how long you spend at school, p5 of Exec summary: Reading literacy skills - the ability to extract the most useful information, in the way most suitable to the text - whether gleaning facts or gaining "deep and far-reaching" information about how to live, believe or act - is a better predictor of future economic and social success than number of years spent in education.

Social class

Class doesn't have to matter, Children in Canada, Finland, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong-China and Shanghai-China do well regardless of their background, But this is true in the UK as well - of Chinese, according to recent study - so is it a cultural thing?, Education alone can't significantly affect a country's socio-economic stratification, but some countries succeed in reduciing its impact on educational attainment., "Resilient students come from the bottom quarter of the distribution of socio-economic background in their country and score in the top quarter among students from all countries with similar socioeconomic background. In Finland, Japan, Turkey, Canada and Portugal and the partner country Singapore, between 39% and 48% of disadvantaged students are resilient. In Korea and the partner economy Macao-China, 50% and 56% of disadvantaged students can be considered resilient, and this percentage is 72% and 76% in partner economies Hong Kong-China and Shanghai-China, respectively.", The UK is bad at this - only 6% of students are "resiliant"

Reading for fun

Hooray for Harry Potter and web browsing, "Compared with not reading for enjoyment at all, reading fiction for enjoyment appears to be positively associated with higher scores in the PISA 2009 reading assessment, while reading comic books is associated with little improvement in reading proficiency in some countries, and with lower overall reading performance in other countries. Also, students who are extensively engaged in online reading activities, such as reading e-mails, chatting on line, reading news on line, using an online dictionary or encyclopaedia, participating in online group discussions and searching for information on line, are generally more proficient readers than students who do little online reading."

Girls don't have to outperform boys

The gender gap is the consequence of our culture and our schools - so could be fixed: "the size of the gender gap varies considerably across countries, suggesting that boys and girls do not have inherently different interests and academic strengths, but that these are mostly acquired and socially induced."

School systems should be both decentralised and accountable

Acountability for schools helps, What's needed is autonomy plus measurement. Neither total freedom to teach and test what you like, nor total central control of behaviour and examination, work. In either case, schools are not accountable for their actions., "In countries where schools have greater autonomy over what is taught and how students are assessed, students tend to perform better.", "Within countries where schools are held to account for their results through posting achievement data publicly, schools that enjoy greater autonomy in resource allocation tend to do better than those with less autonomy. However, in countries where there are no such accountability arrangements, the reverse is true.", But selecting pupils does not, "Countries that create a more competitive environment in which many schools compete for students do not systematically produce better results.", "Within many countries, schools that compete more for students tend to have higher performance, but this is often accounted for by the higher socio-economic status of students in these schools. Parents with a higher socioeconomic status are more likely to take academic performance into consideration when choosing schools."

Discipline and good pupil-teacher relations help

Good learning techniques and study skills make a big difference, "PISA results suggest that boys would be predicted to catch up with girls in reading performance if they had higher levels of motivation to read and used effective learning strategies. In Finland, for example, if boys were equally aware as girls of the most effective ways of summarising complex information in their reading, their scores in the PISA assessment would be predicted to be 23 points higher. Similarly, in most of the countries that participated in PISA 2009, if the most socio-economically disadvantaged students had the same levels of awareness about these strategies as their most advantaged peers, their reading performance would be predicted to be at least 15 points higher."

Pupils are not becoming more disengaged, "Across the 26 OECD countries that participated in both assessments, 74% of students in 2000 agreed or strongly agreed with the statements, “If I need extra help, I will receive it from my teachers” or “Most of my teachers treat me fairly”, while in 2009, 79% of students agreed or strongly agreed with those statements. Overall, aspects of classroom discipline have also improved. Thus there is no evidence to justify the notion that students are becoming progressively more disengaged from school."

Good policy means a country moves up the rankings

Situations aren't set in stone - some countries have made significant improvments between 2000 and 2009., "Among the 26 OECD countries with comparable results in both assessments, Chile, Israel, Poland, Portugal, Korea, Hungary and Germany as well as the partner countries Peru, Albania, Indonesia, Latvia, Liechtenstein and Brazil all improved their reading performance between 2000 and 2009, while performance declined in Ireland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Australia", And countries are becoming more equal: "In many countries, improvements in results were largely driven by improvements at the bottom end of the performance distribution, signalling progress towards greater equity in learning outcomes. Among OECD countries, variation in student performance fell by 3%.", "Between 2000 and 2009, Poland, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland and the partner countries Latvia and Liechtenstein raised the performance of their lowest-achieving students while maintaining the performance level among their highest-achieving students. Korea, Israel and the partner country Brazil raised the performance of their highestachieving students while maintaining the performance level among their lowest-achieving students. Chile and the partner countries Indonesia, Albania and Peru showed improvements in reading performance among students at all proficiency levels.", Esp interesting that Germany and Switz managed to improve lowest performers, given that they're so advanced - suggests that having a rump of under achievers isn't a given.

Making things worse

It's easy to spend a lot and not do much good; and failing to fix problems is very expensive

GDP can't buy you brains, Korea and Shanghai-China both came top, but have GDP per capita well below the OECD average., There is a correlation between GDP per capita and student performance, but this only accounts for 6% of difference.

The UK is spending a lot - but is not getting value for money, "a comparison of countries’ actual spending per student, on average, from the age of 6 up to the age of 15 puts the United Kingdom at an advantage, since only seven countries spend more than the United Kingdom on school education per average student. Across OECD countries, expenditure per student explains 9% of the variation in PISA mean reading performance between countries. Deviations from the trend line suggest that moderate spending per student cannot automatically be equated with poor performance by education systems. For example, Estonia and Poland, which spend around US$ 40 000 per student, perform at the same level as Norway and the United States, which spend over US$ 100 000 per student. Similarly, New Zealand, one of the highest performing countries in reading, spends well below the average per student. While the United Kingdom spends almost US$ 85 000, Germany or Hungary achieve a similar average performance and spend around US$ 63 000 and US$ 44 000 respectively."

Failure to reform is costly, "Bringing the United Kingdom up to the average performance of Finland, the best performing education system in PISA in the OECD area, could result in gains in the order of US$ 7 trillion. Narrowing the achievement gap by bringing all students to a baseline level of minimal proficiency for the OECD (approximated by a PISA score of 400), could imply GDP increases for the United Kingdom of US$ 6 trillion according to historical growth relationships (OECD, 2010b)."

Social class

Class makes a big difference now, "On average across OECD countries, 14% of the differences in student reading performance within each country is associated with differences in students’ socio-economic background." UK is right on this average - 14% here., Particularly in the UK: "the difference in the reading score of the top and bottom 10 percent of students is 246 score points in the United Kingdom, while for OECD countries on average it is 241. More strikingly, 77% of the between schools differences in student performance in the United Kingdom is explained by differences in socio-economic background. Among OECD countries, only Luxembourg has a higher figure (OECD average 55%)." (

Reading for fun

British kids overall like reading less than OECD peers, Only 40% are "wide and deep" or "narrow and deep" readers - average = 45%, "the percentage of students who reported high levels of awareness about effective learning strategies and who regularly read a wide range of materials, including fiction and non-fiction books or at least magazines and newspapers, for enjoyment (considered ‘wide and deep’ or ‘narrow and deep’ readers).", "In the United Kingdom more than 50% of boys read for enjoyment and almost 70% of girls do, both percentages are slightly below average (52% and 73%)."

And reading is getting less popular, "On average across OECD countries, the percentage of students who report reading for enjoyment daily dropped by five percentage points.", "On average across OECD countries, the percentage of students who said they read for enjoyment every day fell from 69% in 2000 to 64% in 2009."


Boys don't enjoy reading, "PISA reveals that in OECD countries, boys are on average 39 points behind girls in reading, the equivalent of one year of schooling", And this is at least partly because they don't enjoy reading as much: "this gap could be predicted to shrink by 14 points if boys approached learning as positively as girls, and by over 20 points if they were as engaged in reading as girls. This does not mean that if boys’ engagement and awareness of learning strategies rose by this amount the increase would automatically translate into respective performance gains, since PISA does not measure causation. But since most of the gender gap can be explained by boys being less engaged, and less engaged students show lower performance, then policy makers should look for more effective ways of increasing boys’ interest in reading at school or at home."

The gender gap is stuck, The gender gap in reading performance did not narrow in any country between 2000 and 2009., Across OECD countries, 24% of boys perform below Level 2 compared to only 12% of girls. The proportion of girls performing below this level decreased by two percentage points between 2000 and 2009, while the share of low-achieving boys did not change during the period.

School structure

Grammar schools don't work, "Systems that show high performance and an equitable distribution of learning outcomes tend to be comprehensive, requiring teachers and schools to embrace diverse student populations through personalised educational pathways. In contrast, school systems that assume that students have different destinations with different expectations and differentiation in terms of how they are placed in schools, classes and grades often show less equitable outcomes without an overall performance advantage.", "In countries where 15-year-olds are divided into more tracks based on their abilities, overall performance is not enhanced, and the younger the age at which selection for such tracks first occurs, the greater the differences in student performance, by socio-economic background, by age 15, without improved overall performance."

And nor do fee-paying private schools, "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."

Is change possible?

The OECD survey can't account for culture - within families and within cultures, The OECD study focuses on the performance of pupils in standardised tests, and objective facts about their family’s wealth and level of education. However, such analysis cannot take into account a country’s wider culture and attitude to education and to authority. A recent study of educational attainment within the UK showed that Chinese children from all social backgrounds tend to do well at school – whereas in other ethnic groups, attainment is closely linked to class. This must be a matter of family attitudes – deeply rooted and difficult to shift by changing schooling techniques.

Where quotes are not otherwise referenced, they are from the executive summary of the survey: