This week, OECD director of education and skills Andreas Schleicher, set about debunking some common myths associated with the best and worst performing education systems in the OECD/Pisa reports. And, for many parents in the UAE, paying a high price for their child's education- the results might come as somewhat of a shock.
Disadvantaged Kids Don't Always Do Badly
Writing for the BBC, Schleicher, remained adamant that children from disadvantaged backgrounds don't necessarily perform badly.
"Results from Pisa tests show that the 10% most disadvantaged 15-year-olds in Shanghai have better maths skills than the 10% most privileged students in the United States and several European countries," he reported.
It Isn't About The Cash
Studies have shown success has little to do with how much money a country spends on its education system, and all about where it's spent.
"For example, students in the Slovak Republic, which spends around $53,000 (£35,000) per student between the age of 6 and 15, perform on average at the same level at age 15 as the United States which spends over $115,000 (£76,000) per student."
Class Size Makes Little Difference
Here in the UAE one of the biggest selling points for private education is small class size, however according to Schleicher, "Pisa results show no relationship between class size and learning outcomes, neither within nor across countries."
Schleicher reports, "the highest performing education systems in Pisa tend to systematically prioritise the quality of teachers over the size of classes. Wherever they have to make a choice between a smaller class and a better teacher, they go for the latter."
Immigrants Lower Results
"Results from Pisa tests show no relationship between the share of students with an immigrant background in a country and the overall performance of students in that country," says Schleicher.
Even students with a similar backgrounds can have very different learning outcomes, in fact, results show it has little to do with where they have come from, and everything to do with where they end up going to school.
Selection Doesn't Equal Success
Countries which use the process of 'academic 'selection' don't actually perform any better than those who don't.
In fact, "none of the countries with a high degree of stratification, whether in the form of tracking, streaming, or grade repetition is among the top performing education systems or among the systems with the highest share of top performers," Schleicher insists.
New Isn't Always Best
Results have shown that just because technology or globalisation have created the need for new skills, moving away from the traditional subjects isn't the solution.
Schleicher points out that education systems which incorporate newer subjects such as financial literacy are actually out-performed by those who ignore it and focus instead on in-depth maths.
Schleicher notes, "when we can access so much content on Google, where routine skills are being digitised or outsourced, and where jobs are changing rapidly, the focus is on enabling people to become lifelong learners, to manage complex ways of thinking and working."
"In top performing education systems the curriculum is not mile-wide and inch-deep, but tends to be rigorous, with a few things taught well and in great depth," Schleicher says.
Softly Softly Isn't The Best Policy
Studies have shown that kids who are pushed- do better in school. Countries who place emphasis on 'inherited intelligence' and not graft- have poorer results than those who drive children to strive.
Schleicher points out, "the findings from Pisa also show this mistaken belief, with a significant share of students in the western world reporting that they needed good luck rather than hard work to do well in mathematics or science. It's a characteristic that is consistently negatively related to performance."
"In Finland, Japan, Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong, students, parents, teachers and the public at large tend to share the belief that all students are capable of achieving high standards. Students in those systems consistently reported that if they tried hard, they would trust in their teachers to help them excel," Schleicher notes.