With the sixth PISA assessment due to be conducted at the end of this year and its subsequent evaluations dissected and discussed, comparisons will of school systems will be drawn. Which one is the best? Which nation trumps others? How can governments improve? Do they need to spend more money? And so the list continues. However, certain illusions for a country to better their scores, such as the throwing more money, still persist and reduce the ability for actual improvement.
Money does not buy success
The modern world no longer is segregated on the lines of rich and poor but it can be divided among those good and bad education. More precisely, the way in which the money is spent is far more important than the amount it is spent. The global economy is shifting increasingly towards being based on knowledge – though one might argue that research always has driven economies – and countries need to invest heavily in progressing the quality of education as well as academic and non-academic skills if they are to succeed in such an economy. For instance, Slovakian students aged 6-15 perform at the same level as their counterparts in the US in the PISA tests. However, Slovakia invests approximately $53,000 on each student between the ages of 6-15 and the US spends $115,000 for the same.
Smaller class size equals better standards
Parroted by teachers, parents, policy-makers, and the like, the size of the classroom has no impact on the learning outcome of students. Interestingly, smaller class sizes, thought as the key to a more personalised education, have led to increased expenditures per students, as highlighted in the aforementioned example, yet they see no increase in academic performance.
Instead, the attitude of the system towards individual schools and students is the greatest factor in performance. A school system that favours employing better teachers and teaching practices – such as not segregating students based on ability – performs better than those systems that not focus on attracting talented teaching personnel. High professional status and teaching salaries is not a universal marker but certainly holds true in wealthier nations. This investment priority in teachers, their continued professional development, and maintaining a good balance between working and leisure time, opposed to smaller classrooms, also encourages high expectations; high-performing school systems do not allow students to fail, repeat a year, make them transfer schools, or separate them into classes based on ability.
Part II discusses the myth of poor performance by disadvantaged students, the artificial need for more subjects to be included in the curriculum to reflect the changes in the modern world, and the false belief that you need foreknowledge to succeed instead of hard work.