It's time to learn the real lessons of Pisa

13th December 2013 at 00:00

The Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) rankings are once again being used to pillory teachers. We are told that we are failing to raise standards. Politicians and the media alike push for us to be made to work harder, as though there is only one cure. Looking at the data indicates that the opposite may be true.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Education at a Glance 2011 report includes a table detailing the average number of teaching hours per teacher by country. Where there is data on teaching hours, in only three of the countries placed above the UK in the new Pisa rankings for maths - Australia, the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands - do teachers spend more time in front of their classes at the upper secondary level than in England. The average teacher in that country spends 714 hours in the classroom, compared with a Danish teacher's 377 hours. On average, teachers in England spend more than 100 extra hours in front of their students compared with those we follow in the Pisa table.

No wonder teachers outside the UK achieve better results. It makes sense that more time spent preparing lessons and producing constructive feedback is going to lead to better student performance. Unfortunately, implementing this would require more money and that is unlikely to be forthcoming. The government could acknowledge, however, that this is the only real route to future success and promise to reduce teachers' hours when the economy recovers. I won't be holding my breath.

Alan Smith, Reading, Berkshire.

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