Which school systems keep improving?

I was alerted to the following tweet by @thingsbehindsun

The slide in question by Andy Buck suggests that Canada and Finland “keep improving” while the U.K. and the U.S. “don’t improve much”:

Let’s have a look at the PISA data for Canada and Finland:

They are not improving. 

If we look at the U.K. and the U.S., things seem pretty static apart from a fairly obvious decline in U.S. maths performance which is, no doubt, related to the increasing influence of constructivist maths approaches:

These graphs also hide an important amount of regional variation. Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. all have multiple education systems. For instance, the comments in the slide would better describe the approach in England than Scotland, and Scotland’s results are in decline.


6 thoughts on “Which school systems keep improving?

  1. What would be rather interesting, is to see how many kids are now benefitting from private tutors, vs. that a decade or even 5 years ago. Along with our scores tanking, we also have to adjust and acknowledge the 2 tier system which now exists in our public education system. Tutoring has always been around, but never has it been as profitable as it is today.

    We should also acknowledge how more constructivist curricula might be affecting these outcomes. We cannot infer causation, but we can sure make a very strong correlation between the two, as Dr. Stokke has here https://cdhowe.org/public-policy-research/what-do-about-canada%E2%80%99s-declining-math-scores.

    As one taxpayer/parent who’s witnessed 2-3 different curricula during my kids’ time in school, I fear the trend isn’t good. Our latest revision suggests that competencies, rather than knowledge should be the focus in the classroom https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/curriculum-updates. It’s more of an infomercial for Sir Ken, rather than anything meaningful for real learning.

    I weep for my children, and for their generation.

  2. Also of interest is that when I mention (as you do) the increasing influence of constructivism in the US, I’m countered with “Where? Most schools are very traditional.” Maybe so in high schools (and to a lesser extent in middle schools) but in K-6 where mastery of foundational math is key, constructivist, student-centered, inquiry-based models have been increasing steadily since the 90’s. Even Steven Labaree (ed school professor at Stanford’s ed school) says this; see in particular pp 14 and 15 in https://web.stanford.edu/~dlabaree/publications/Romance_with_Progressivism.pdf

  3. Allow me to offer a translation of the items on the right-hand side of that graphic. Trust me here, I’m a language teacher.


    – Systematic belittling of actual subject knowledge


    – Puerile group work projects lasting weeks

    Trust-based responsibility

    – No tests

    Leader professionalism

    – Piles of useless yet obligatory inservices with adacemics and educrats if you want to ascend the ladder for that precious extra $15k a year

    Ssstained improvement

    – Fiddling figures


    – Guarding against any teachers with deep subject knowledge or any pesky kids with the ambition to attain such knowledge

  4. Is there a bit of “Disco Stu” thinking going on with the interpretation of that first graph? Eyyyyy …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.