OECD: just 1 in 10 education reforms are tested to see if they work


The world’s richest countries are spending billions of pounds on education reforms but rarely check whether they have worked, according to a major study published today.

The report from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) looked at 450 education reforms introduced across its 34 member countries between 2008 and 2014. But it found that “once new policies are adopted, there is little follow-up” and that only 10 per cent of the reforms examined had “been evaluated for their impact”.

“Measuring policy impact more rigorously and consistently will not only be cost-effective in the long run, it is also essential for developing the most useful, practicable and successful education policy options,” the report warns.

It states that OECD countries have yet to “systematically include policy evaluation in the policy-making process”.

In England, academics have raised concerns that large amounts of public money have been committed to education policies such as Ofsted and Teach First without evidence as to whether they are effective or not.

Today’s report, Education Policy Outlook 2015 - Making Reforms Happen, also warns that school improvement reforms “may fail to take hold in classrooms because of lack of effective engagement by those involved or because of reform overload or shifts in policies when political agendas change”.

John Bangs, chair of the Trade Union Advisory Committee’s Education Working Group at the OECD, said: "One of the contradictions of democratic governments is that they have to make their mark with reforms. But no new government, especially if it is of a different political persuasion, will want to evaluate anything about the previous government because it is entirely tied up with politics.

“The constant disruptive process of governments seeing education through a party-political lens is massively damaging.”

The report also finds that policies aimed at changing teaching practice are more effective than reforms that only look at school structures or resources. The importance of giving teachers adequate training and explanations to ensure they are behind a new approach is also stressed.

Related stories:

'Ofsted's approach 'is not backed by research' September 2013

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