Last week the Education Policy Institute hosted the global launch of the 2015 PISA results—the educational performance of 15 year olds across the world.
The results of PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment) are always fascinating, and receive a huge amount of attention both in the UK and internationally. But there need to be health warnings, not just about data quality and cultural factors but about timeliness. To a large extent we are looking in the rear view mirror, and should be cautious about inferring any causation from recent policy changes.
So, in England, for example, we will not know for some time whether the changes to curriculum, qualifications and accountability carried out by the last (coalition) government have been successful or not.
Notwithstanding these reservations, what do we know about performance in the UK, including in our individual nation states? Well, the UK’s overall absolute performance and ranking has changed very little over the last decade. We are a higher performer internationally, but not yet a global leader.
And within the UK there are some observable changes—with falls in science scores in Wales and Scotland, and in maths scores in Scotland. Scotland now appears to be lagging England on many measures, and Wales is well behind the rest of the UK. Following devolution, we are now seeing much greater variation in education policy across the UK, and we need to ensure that we learn the lessons from this.