UK's Education System Ranks 6th in Pearson Tests


The latest Pearson tests have shown that the UK’s education system is working more effectively than before. Ranking 6th overall and second best in Europe, the UK is now only one place behind Finland; long held as one of the great powerhouses of education.

In December 2013, the Pisa tests showed that the UK was a ‘middle-ranking education performer’. Falling behind their global rivals, it was said that the UK had made little progress as test scores were “flatlining”[i].  So what has changed to show the UK in a positive light?

The latest league table which puts the UK in 6th place was compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit and published by Pearson. Based on a range of test results and education data, this also included university level information as well as school data. Specifically, the data compiled measured entry to academic university paths which are not necessarily available in other countries. Shorter, vocational courses which are more popular in other countries were also not included in the league table.

The OECD’s Pisa rankings are based on a “specific tests taken by 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science, with pupils in more than 60 countries answering the same questions.” So which tests are more accurate?

Pisa has an international status, whereas the Pearson rankings use a wide range of indicators. As international comparisons have become increasingly significant, it is important to note the recent move made by England’s exam system which saw tests benchmarked against internal standards.

According to the BBC News education correspondent, Sean Coughlan, “The Pisa tests measure reading, but not writing. It's much harder to measure the handling of ideas rather than numbers. How would you compare written analytical skills across so many different cultures and languages? How would you compare creativity or innovation?”

Coughlan questions how a successful education can be measured and if they can be compared across the globe. In South Korea, for example, pupils must memorise 60 – 100 pages of facts. How does this compare with the UK?

It is fair to say that the Pearson test might show a more accurate representation of the UK system, but international tests such as Pisa provide a “time-lapse image of the changing economic landscape”.

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