11/12/2007 - Scotland's schools receive high marks in the latest OECD Review of National Policies for Education, which notes that Scotland has one of the most equitable and best performing education systems in OECD countries.
Many children prove to be a year or two in advance of expected levels and a larger proportion of children than previously reported pass at the highest level in examinations in the final year of compulsory education. There has been greater consistency of achievement in the early years of primary schools and under-achievement has been significantly reduced. The report also notes the high degree of dedication and proficiency of professionals in the Scottish system.
A number of challenges remain, however. Notwithstanding the overall success rate of the Scottish educational system, gaps in achievement have opened up, beginning in primary education and widening throughout junior secondary years. Another concern is the increasing number of young people leaving school with minimal qualifications, a tendency found amongst students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
The OECD report, by an international team of examiners from Australia, Belgium, Finland and New Zealand, gives a series of recommendations on how such challenges can be met. Among other things, it encourages a more integrated approach between the different authorities, with clear objectives and a funding methodology tied to a national strategy, as well as more freedom of action for local councils and schools, balanced by greater transparency and accountability.
Local councils need efficient funding mechanisms to ensure a consistent pattern of educational outcomes, the report notes, as well as greater autonomy in determining curriculum, exams and qualifications. Flexibility in these mechanisms should extend all along the chain to enhance the links from national government to local councils and schools.
The examiners state their confidence in the Scottish government to implement these recommendations within the framework of a new curriculum in Scotland - the Curriculum for Excellence, which aims to deepen and enrich the demands made on students while building incentives into study programmes which enhance both the quality of teaching and the enjoyment of learning.
The team of examiners was headed by Professor Richard V. Teese of the University of Melbourne, Australia, rapporteur and chair; the other examiners were Simo Juva of Finland, Frances Kelly of New Zealand, and Dirk Van Damme of Belgium.
For further details, journalists are invited to contact: Fiona Wilson in the Scottish Government (tel: 44 (0)131 244 4001), or Gregory Wurzburg in the OECD's Education Directorate (tel: 33 (0) 1 45 24 92 95).
The report is available for journalists from the OECD Media Division (tel. 33 1 4524 9700). A background report, OECD Review of the Quality and Equity of Education Outcomes in Scotland: Diagnostic Report, was prepared by the Scottish Government.
For details on international PISA results: www.pisa.oecd.org
For details on PISA results for Scotland: www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2007/12/03160841