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UK education ranked second best in Europe

May 30, 2014

The UK is in second place among European countries and sixth overall in a global education league table.

South Korea is top, with three other Asian countries and Finland making up the top five, in rankings from education and publishing firm, Pearson. The rankings include higher education as well as international school tests – which boosted the UK’s position. Pearson chief executive John Fallon highlighted the economic importance of improving education and skills. These latest international comparisons, compiled for Pearson by the Economist Intelligence Unit, emphasise the success of Asian education systems, with South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong in China rated as the highest performing. But it shows a strong performance from the UK, which is ranked sixth, behind only Finland in Europe and ahead of countries such as Germany, France and the United States. 

Finns no longer flying

Finland, which was previously in first place, has slumped to fifth, and there has been a wider downward trend for a number of Scandinavian countries. It also records the rise of Poland, which has been hailed for reforming its post-Communist education system and sits in the top 10.

These rankings are based upon an amalgamation of international tests and education data – including the OECD’s Pisa tests, and two major US-based studies, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls).

They also include higher-education graduation rates, which helped the UK to a much higher position than in Pisa tests, which saw the UK failing to make the top 20.

The UK’s Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “The UK has a global reputation for excellence in higher education, attracting overseas students who make huge economic and cultural contribution to Britain. To maintain our position, we must continue to attract international students and promote the UK as a knowledge economy.”

A Learning Curve report accompanying the ranking says that the success of top-performing Asian countries reflects a culture in which teachers and schools are highly respected and “teachers, students and parents all take responsibility for education”. Students in South Korea, with the strongest test results, will have had to memorise 60 to 100 pages of facts, says the report, raising questions about the long-term value of such rote learning. The report also notes that highly-prized skills such as being creative and problem-solving are much harder to measure and put into such rankings. The lowest-ranked European country is Greece, with a group of emerging economies at the bottom of the table, including Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil.

By Sean Coughlan, BBC

 

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