Global Rankings Lists on Education

Here’s the latest rankings list on school education that will be scrutinized and analysed at great length by educators and government officials throughout developed countries for clues about how to ‘win the education game’.

BBC Article – Global Education Rankings

The rankings and the article itself held few surprises for me when reading. However, it raises some more critical issues, in my view, that remain to be addressed and on which there is little consensus.

At the level of an individual child, it is possible that throughout their education every bit of focus is placed upon achieving academic excellence (in the form of achieving the highest possible marks on standardized examinations), at the expense of all else. If, ultimately, this child produces higher academic results than his/ her peers can it be said that that child was the ‘best educated’?

Something similar is going on with the PISA tests, those that are most commonly used to determine these kinds of global rankings. A particular organization creates a test, uses it to measure performance of students across a whole variety of countries and then uses the results of those students’ performances to declare that some countries have better or worse education systems than others. We need to keep these results in some context. The results ONLY demonstrate which countries’ students achieved highest results on this particular test of students’ abilities.

I believe that in order to extrapolate from such data to compare the education systems of different countries, these test results would have to be just one criteria, set alongside a lot of other data. Other things that might be considered include quality of life and satisfaction/ happiness of youngsters in their 20’s, employability metrics, abilities of students moving in to further education. Of course, there’s no question that these are much harder things to measure and to isolate the part played by the school education system. However, I would argue that if we leave these out we have a very incomplete and inadequate assessment of real and genuine ‘quality’ of an education system.

As with the individual child, so with the system as a whole, ability to succeed in a single type of test should not be used to extrapolate too much about the quality of learning that has taken place. Those who run education systems might wish that what educators do could be distilled down to a few simple measurable. However, they have to acknowledge that such an unsophisticated approacvh is unlikely to serve the next generation well.


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