According to the Pisa rankings released at the end of last year the answer is Singapore! The children in Singapore topped the scores in reading, maths and science, while the UK was lagging behind coming 15th in science, a disappointing 22nd in reading and a dreadful 27th in maths.
The top of the table countries for reading show Hong Kong (2nd), and Canada (3rd). In maths Hong Kong and China (Macao) are right behind Singapore. In fact, the western countries drop behind in both maths and science scores.
What is PISA?
This is short for the Programme for International Student Assessment and is based on international tests taken by 15 year olds in reading, maths and science. More than 70 countries are surveyed every three years and the UK isn’t improving – having been outside the top 20 for the last decade.
The secret of success
We could learn a few lessons from Singapore who have revolutionised their education system over the past 50 years. Despite not being among the wealthiest countries, the government has invested in quality teaching as the core of their approach to offering a very high standard of education.
The problem is that most parents can’t simply relocated to one of the countries that score highly, so what can you do that will make a difference?
- Take an interest in your child’s schooling – don’t just assume that the school is able to do whatever is necessary.
- Make an effort to attend school parent-teacher meetings – and ask good questions. Not just ‘how is my child doing?’, but ‘what can I do to help my child to improve?’ and ‘where are the weakest areas?’
- Be active either by joining the PTA or the Board of Governors and campaign to improve the quality of teaching and get the best teachers for your school.
- Support your child at home – talk to them about their classwork and homework, find out what they’re struggling with and see how you can help.
You won’t be able to help your child with every subject – and the more advanced your child gets, the more likely it is that they will outstrip your knowledge! But there are other options.
- Extra tutoring – either with a teacher at the school or an independent tutor. This offers one-to-one support, but could be expensive, depending on how many subjects your child needs help with.
- A cooperative parents group made of parents with skills in different subjects to work with a small group of children. This leverages a wider knowledge-base, but can be difficult to organise and may be time consuming.
- Get hold of previous exam papers and encourage your child to work through them. Good practice, but can be demoralising if they’re not yet at that level and also the curriculum may have changed in the meantime.
- Use an online learning system. There are several of these, do check them out and ensure you choose one that offers the best for your child.
Here’s what Exemplar can offer:
- Face-to-face assessment to establish areas of weakness and the correct starting place for your child
- Learning programmes for the current curriculum in Maths and English
- The ability to move forward at the child’s own pace – no time constraints other than those dictated by their next school tests or exams.
- Support by phone from real teachers who will answer any question, whether about the learning programme or today’s school homework.