We're rank outsiders, Mr Gove

24th December 2010 at 00:00

Peter Wilby's attempt to dismiss the latest Pisa test results is weak and unconvincing (Insight, December 10). The consistently superior performance in Pisa tests of children from countries as widely different as Finland, Canada and South Korea cannot be explained away by Wilby's glib references to immigration, language structure and even climate.

The three features that the education systems of these countries have in common are an inclusive approach which attempts to bring the best out of all children; a highly educated and trained teaching force which is able to exercise professional autonomy; and a weak or non-existent private sector.

Also, they all share the philosophy that education is a public, rather than private, good whose success benefits society as a whole. By contrast, UK governments have increasingly come to see education as a private good to be treated as a marketable commodity.

In addition, the UK has an overweeningly powerful private sector; an undereducated and undertrained teaching force, which government does not see as competent to exercise professional autonomy; and an extremely hierarchical system of public provision which reinforces existing social and economic inequalities.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education.

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