Lord Mike Storey: Learning from our languishing PISA results

Today in the Lords there was a debate on the contribution of high-quality education to economic growth. Lib Dem peer and former headteacher Lord Mike Storey, who spoke in the debate, says this week’s disappointing PISA figures should give everyone food for thought

Lord Storey
Lord Storey

Today I spoke in a debate on the contribution of high-quality education to economic growth, which is particularly pertinent considering that whilst the PM is currently negotiating trade deals in China, news of the PISA results show that British children are lagging behind their Chinese counterparts, educationally. The results illustrate that the UK may lose out in the global economic race unless we begin to focus on giving our children the highly sought-after skills that will be necessary for their future careers and the country’s future economic prospects.

It sounds blindingly obvious, but countries that prepare their children for the jobs of the future will come out on top. As well as teaching modern languages at a young age, one such skill UK schools need to get to grips with is computer coding (which will be introduced via the National Curriculum next September). This is commendable, but we also have to consider how such teaching will be delivered. I suggest that instead of lambasting schools for not improving PISA results from three years ago, we should instead encompass broad aspects from international education systems into our own. I’m not in favour of copying their models, but we should learn from other countries’ successes.

As we see from the PISA results, there is no uniform schooling system that delivers success. Canada and Finland have always performed above average in PISA. They opt for limited testing, giving teachers more autonomy and valuing individual independence. However, if we look to Japan and the Netherlands we see an emphasis on ‘practice makes perfect’. Personally, I am wary of rote learning and robotic repetition, having witnessed this first-hand on a visit to a Chinese primary school in Xi’an. Though there are of course distinct cultural differences between nations, broadly the most successful countries share key elements: highly trained and valued leadership, continuous teaching training, high parental involvement and great expectations of pupils (regardless on background or IQ).

Whilst it is important that our children are highly skilled in maths, reading and science, we must not forget to immerse young people in a curriculum that encompasses the joys of the arts, sport and classical subjects (such as history or literature). We must continue to give our children creative and academic opportunities, as without this balance the UK wouldn’t be the leader in the visual and performing arts industries. This is something we must not forget in the fervour of under performance in other areas.

Finally, instead of politicians throwing stones, I suggest there is a dire need for a unified consensus. Only in this way, will our schools flourish (and no doubt leap up the PISA rankings table!).


Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.


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