Political prejudice lost us world rankings race

17th December 2010 at 00:00

The latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) survey, which compares standards of science, reading and maths in 65 countries, makes for worrying reading ("Pisa rejects claim that competition raises results", December 10). In 2000, the UK came seventh in reading. We are now 25th. There have been similar declines in science and maths. How did we get into this parlous state?

Labour and Tory alike told us Sats were essential in the drive for standards. Standards have tumbled. So much for Sats. Finland, after all, more or less maintained its position and it does not have national high-stakes testing until its pupils are in sixth-form.

Ministers from both parties pursued permanent change with initiatives such as the ludicrous literacy hour. Sadly, they presided over a regime which saw less reading for pleasure, fewer whole books being read, declining book stocks and fewer libraries and librarians. Why not show a little humility and see what works abroad? Consistency works.

South Korea and Finland tinker far less with their education system than the UK and the US. Reading works. With consistent pedagogy and a stress on reading for pleasure, we could make great strides. Respect for teachers works. Most of the countries higher up the rankings give their teachers high professional status.

Most of all, let us start basing our pedagogy on clear, rigorous evidence rather than the populist prejudices of opportunist politicians.

Alan Gibbons, Author, Liverpool.

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