14 June 2012, 3pm
By Ann Willacy
Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director for Education and Special Advisor on education policy to OECD's Secretary-General.
Comparisons of the educational achievement of different nations provides us with some fascinating differences. Countries vary tremendously in their ability to provide both high quality education and high equity across the socio-economic scale.
However the highest performing nations have a lot in common. In particular, a strong focus on high quality leadership and the role of school leaders is more critical now than ever.
The Program for International Student Achievement (PISA) research tells us a lot about the characteristics of successful schools. They:
Transforming a national education system takes energy and commitment, and a willingness to create and promote new cultural values. The most recent data from PISA shows some dramatic gains from countries previously thought to have had cultural barriers to new ideas and transformational thinking such as Japan, as well as some of the high performing Scandinavian countries like Finland and Sweden.
Factors that influence a rise in standards are fairly uniform across countries and include:
It is in system leadership where countries can gain the most by capitalising on the knowledge which is already in the system. In Shanghai, for example, within-school variability has been cut by half by pairing high- and low-performing schools, and by using retired school leaders to provide administrative and pedagogical advice.
Education leaders were urged to
The route to success lies in innovation and knowledge, inspired by practitioners, combined with high-quality research.