Skip to main content

Young Scots charge up the global league table

MUCH maligned 15-year-olds, pressured by Standard grade exams and struggling with teenage angst, are not doing so badly after all in hard-nosed global league tables.

However, like their peers in almost all other countries which took part in the latest survey, one in four is bored by school and would rather not be there. The spirit of Ken Loach's Kes lives on.

Findings from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's study of more than 250,000 students in 32 nations shows, perhaps surprisingly, that despite national assumptions about underperformance, 15-year-olds in Scotland are doing pretty well in reading, maths and science.

Not top, but in the top third in all subjects.

They even marginally outperform students south of the border in reading and maths after completing a battery of tests that were repeated across the globe. Some 2,500 Scots in 99 secondaries completed the pencil and paper tests two years ago.

The heartening news confirms that 15-year-olds performed significantly better in maths and science than nine and 13-year-olds did in earlier international studies and this is likely to be repeated in reading, according to the Education and Young People Research Unit in the Scottish Executive.

On the combined reading literacy score, students in Finland, Canada and New Zealand came top but Scotland was ranked sixth and well above the international average. As expected, girls do better.

In maths, the top three countries were Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand with Scotland just behind in fourth.

Scientific literacy scores push Scotland down the table to ninth and below England. The top three were again Korea, Japan and Finland. The researchers conclude: "It is expected that the science strategy and the revised 5-14 curriculum guidelines developed in Scotland will help to redress this relative shortfall in student performance."

Once again, perhaps surprisingly, gender differences in Scotland - the subject of intense focus in schools - are "quite low". Only in reading do girls do substantially better.

Leader, page 20

Performance factors

* Spending levels are responsible for just 17 per cent of variations in results between countries.

* Almost half of heads said absenteeism was the main obstacle to learning.

* The most frequently mentioned problem affecting learning was wasted time at the beginning of lessons.

* Homework had a "consistently positive" effect.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

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