COMPARISONS placing Scotland's schools well down the international league tables are mostly based on out-of-date figures, some now six years old.
First-year secondary pupils recorded in the absenteeism statistics of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development left school - legitimately - up to two years ago.
Much of the evidence in Education at a Glance 2000, highlighted by various media sources this week to prove that Scottish schools are failing, is based on a reworking of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study carried out in 1994-95 during the previous Conservative administration.
Truancy rates ranking Scotland with the Czech Republic at the foot of the table are based n pupils absent on a typical day "for any reason". The rating does not distinguish between authorised and unauthorised absence and was set before current initiatives were introduced.
Attitudes to science, which bring more encouraging news for Scotland, are based on the same six-year-old evidence, along with some of the statistics for teachers' working hours.
The more up-to-date figures for teaching hours are based on the 1997-98 session. They show Scottish teachers apparently working longer hours than most.
But the OECD notes: "The structure of teachers' working time varies widely between countries, making it difficult to establish an internationally comparable measure of working time." KATE SUTHERLAND