Global education league tables vary significantly and caution should be exercised in using them to gauge how effectively those in teaching jobs are educating England's pupils, a new report has stated.
Back in 2009, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranked England joint 27th out of 65 countries for secondary school-level maths on its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) table.
Two years later, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) - conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) - rated England as 10th out of 42 countries for secondary maths.
According to a new report produced for the Sutton Trust, 'Confusion in the Ranks', this typifies the sort of discrepancies found between tables such as PISA, TIMSS, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study also conducted by the IEA and Pearson's new index.
The research by Professor Alan Smithers of the University of Buckingham indicated that these variations are party due to the inclusion of different countries in different league tables.
It also attributed some of the differences to league tables exaggerating the importance of raw test scores, as well as to the surveys testing different aspects of literacy, numeracy and science.
Nonetheless, the tables did concur that Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan were all outperforming England, while PISA also ranked Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Germany and Canada as generally doing better than England.
Professor Smithers said differences in pupil performance were not solely due to education systems and that, in explaining the success of Asian schoolchildren, their culture of hard work and effort, personality trait of quiet persistence and distinctive parenting must also be taken into account.
He asserted: "There may not be a magic bullet from these countries which can be incorporated into England's education system and we may do better to look at those European countries that do well in PISA to learn the lessons of their success."
The report also warned that the value of these international comparisons was being obscured by their findings being selectively incorporated into political narratives.
For example, it recalled the previous Labour government using them as evidence its educational reforms were succeeding back in 2001, while the current administration has utilised them to justify changes it wishes to make to the education system.
Posted by Alan Douglas