UK and Western Europe join US at back of the class on behaviour

Pisa top 10 includes only Far East and former communist countries

Kerra Maddern

No countries from North America or Western Europe have made it into the top 10 best-performing nations on classroom behaviour.

A new league table, produced alongside the Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey of academic ability, concludes that such nations - including the UK - have again been outperformed by the Far East and those formerly on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

Pupil questionnaires carried out as part of Pisa - an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) programme - show that the UK lags behind countries like Japan, Romania, China and Thailand for the quality of relationships between teachers and pupils, the level of noise and disorder, and the amount of time it takes for a lesson to begin.

Japan scored highest on all but one of the surveys.

John Bangs, education trade union representative at the OECD, said cultural differences between countries explained the rankings.

"In some countries, such as Finland, lively behaviour is more likely to be accepted, whereas in other countries this would be perceived as disruptive," he said.

"It's interesting that many of the countries who are at the top of the Pisa academic rankings come further towards the bottom for behaviour. We must ask questions about this correlation."

Susan Hallam, an academic at London University's Institute of Education who researches trends in behaviour in schools, said: "The countries that have scored highly for discipline are known for being very ordered, and this obviously spills over to the education system.

"But these rankings show that even when compared to countries similar to ours, the UK still has a way to go," she added.

The Pisa researchers say they have found a trend towards more orderly classrooms overall, with many countries improving their ranking since the previous research in 2000. Statistics for 2009, released last week, show that discipline improved in 25 of the 38 countries that take part in the study.

The In Focus document from Pisa says: "Popular belief has it that every successive crop of students is less disciplined than the one before it, and that teachers are losing control over their classes.

"But popular belief has it wrong: according to data gathered in Pisa 2009, the majority of students in OECD countries enjoy orderly classrooms, and between 2000 and 2009, discipline in school did not deteriorate - in fact, in most countries it improved."

On average across all the participating countries, 73 per cent of pupils said their teachers did not have to wait a long time for them to quieten down at the start of a lesson, up from 67 per cent in 2000.

Almost 74 per cent of UK pupils said their teachers did not have to wait long for them to settle down. Overall, the average was higher than the OECD average of 72.6 per cent.

A total of 74 per cent of UK pupils said it was rare for children not to listen to their teacher, compared to the Pisa average of 72 per cent. Around 68 per cent said noise and disorder "never" or "hardly ever" happened or occurred in "some lessons" - the same as the Pisa average.

Japan topped many of the polls for "calm classrooms" (see table, left), with South Korea, Romania and Hong Kong also scoring highly. European countries such as France, the Netherlands, Finland and Greece came at the bottom of the chart.



Percentage of students who reported that their teachers never or rarely have to wait long for them to quieten down:

Top 10%

Japan - 93

Kazakhstan - 91

Shanghai, China - 90

Hong Kong - 89

Romania - 89

South Korea - 88

Azerbaijan - 88

Thailand - 86

Albania - 86

Russia - 85

UK (32nd place) - 74

OECD average - 73.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Kerra Maddern

Latest stories