England’s aim must be to “out-educate” the rest of the world if it is to succeed in improving the life chances of its young people, an education minister said today.
The country’s schools should not simply hope to catch up with those nations that boast the best education systems, but to overtake them if England is to create a better future, Elizabeth Truss said.
In a speech at the University of Oxford this afternoon, the Conservative minister said that she and education secretary Michael Gove were working to a “decade-long project” in a bid to achieve this.
Ms Truss cited last month’s Pisa rankings, published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which showed that England’s performance had flatlined in maths, science and reading.
Other European nations, such as Poland and Germany, had successfully improved their education systems and now sit among the best countries in the world, while the Far East has consistently appeared at the top of the Pisa league tables, Ms Truss said.
“Our ambition must not just be to catch up with Germany and Poland but to overtake them. Not just to learn from the Asian tigers but to surpass them – do it better, smarter, more creatively,” Ms Truss said. “Our ambition must be to out-educate the rest of the world.”
The minister said that schools in England were already learning from their Chinese counterparts, such as Kibworth Primary in Leicestershire, which introduced “mixed lecture-style and small group classes” to free up six hours for teacher development time.
By learning from the “Asian tigers” as well as looking to Germany and Poland, a greater proportion of the English population would be find better paid, high-skilled jobs, Ms Truss insisted.
“If we get education right, we have the economic conditions for a boom in social mobility – a vast increase in the number of high-end jobs, and a greater future for all of us,” she added.