While the First Minister was visiting schools in Malawi, his Education Minister was in Brussels working on plans to set up an international benchmarking club.
Peter Peacock was pursuing his target of putting in place robust measures to gauge Scotland's educational performance against countries of a similar make-up when he met his counterparts from Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the Flemish community of Belgium.
A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said: "The ministers discussed a key common issue: raising the performance of the lowest achievers. They agreed that priority actions for this area were improving parental involvement, a focus on reaching vulnerable children before they reach primary school and ensuring schools are an integral part of wider community life."
Mr Peacock visits Finland next month and hopes to discover more about the country's approach to school leadership, devolved school management, curriculum reform and parental involvement - which mirrors some of the policy agenda in Scotland.