The latest edition of Pisa – the world’s most influential education study – has advised governments around the world to cut back on academic selection.
The warning in the Programme for International Student Assessment report released by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) this morning comes with ministers in England consulting on an expansion of academically selective grammar schools.
But Pisa advises: “All students, whether immigrant or non-immigrant, advantaged or disadvantaged, would benefit from a more limited application of policies that sort students into differing programmes tracks or schools, particularly if these policies are applied in the earliest years of secondary school.”
Earlier this year, Andreas Schleicher, the OECD education director who runs Pisa, warned that introducing more grammar schools in England was unlikely to improve social mobility. In European countries “academic selection ultimately becomes social selection”, he said.
The results of the Pisa tests taken in 72 countries in 2015, published in today’s study, show that the UK has risen six places up the rankings in science to 15th place, dropped one place in maths to 27th and risen one place in reading to 22nd, but seen its scores drop in all three. Singapore came top in all three.
The UK is currently one of the least selective countries in Pisa. The average age for the start of selection in OECD countries is 14.
But some countries including Austria and Germany do so at 10. Whereas in the UK most, although not all, schools will not select students until age 16.
Nick Gibb, England’s school standards minister, said: "We want to make this a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few, and education is at the heart of that ambition.
"Today’s findings provide a useful insight as we consider how to harness the expertise of selective schools in this country in the future. We know that grammar schools provide a good education for their disadvantaged pupils, which is why we want more pupils from lower income backgrounds to benefit from that.
"We have set out plans to make more good school places available, to more parents, in more parts of the country. This includes scrapping the ban on new grammar schools, and harnessing the resources and expertise of universities, faith schools and independent schools."
You can read all the latest Pisa news and analysis here.