English teenagers do well at problem solving…

A new PISA study has been published, responding to the question of whether today’s 15-year-olds are acquiring the problem-solving skills needed in the 21st century. The study presents results from the PISA 2012 assessment of problem solving, which was administered on computer to about 85,000 teenagers in 44 countries and economies.

Singapore, Korea, and Japan top the performance table. However, England, which is often cited as “underperforming” in international tests, is 11th, with pupils performing significantly better in problem solving, on average, than pupils in other countries who show similar performance in mathematics, reading, and science.

In general boys outperformed girls in problem solving, and the study also found that the impact of socio-economic status on problem-solving performance is weaker than it is on performance in mathematics, reading, or science.

Source: PISA 2012 Results: Creative Problem Solving: Students’ skills in tackling real-life problems (Volume V) (2014), OECD.

How teachers use Web 2.0 technologies makes a difference

A new review from the National Institute of Education in Singapore has explored evidence-based pedagogical approaches related to the use of Web 2.0 technologies in both schools and higher education settings. Web 2.0, which is also known as the read-write web, allows two-way communication between a website and users.

The review suggests that actual evidence regarding the impact of Web 2.0 technologies on pupil learning is fairly weak, though generally positive. However, positive effects are not necessarily attributed to the technologies per se but to how the technologies are used.

The review included empirical studies that examined the impact of Web 2.0 technologies on learning, excluding anecdotal studies and studies only focusing on pupil self-reported data and interviews.

Source: Use of Web 2.0 Technologies in K-12 and Higher Education: The Search for Evidence-based Practice (2013), Educational Research Review, 9.

Focus on early maths to raise standards

East Asian countries dominate international standardised tests in mathematics. This new working paper, produced by the Institute of Education, compares English children with those from Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, to see how their performance changes between the ages of 10 and 16.

The results suggest that, although average maths test scores are higher in the East Asian countries, the achievement gap does not increase between ages 10 and 16. The conclusion is that policy makers should concentrate on reforms at pre-school and primary level if English children are to catch up. Although they do not believe that reforming secondary education is the answer, the authors do note that there is also a need to ensure that English high achievers manage to keep pace with the highest achieving pupils in other countries during secondary school via, for instance, gifted and talented schemes.

Source: The Mathematics Skills of Schoolchildren: How Does England Compare to the High Performing East Asian Jurisdictions? (2013), Institute of Education

How does the social attainment gap in England compare with other countries?

Using findings from an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) study on the impact of socio-economic background on pupil performance this report from the Department for Education summarises how the social attainment gap in England compares with other countries.

It looks at:

  • How the OECD measure pupils’ socio-economic backgrounds in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment);
  • The distribution of pupil attainment in England and how this compares with countries internationally;
  • The association between pupils’ socio-economic backgrounds and attainment in England and how this compares with countries internationally;
  • How social gaps reported in PISA compare to the gap reported between pupils known to be eligible for free school meals and their peers in England; and
  • How average attainment reported by PISA is affected when we control for pupil background.

One of the findings of the report is that England is not the only country in which socio-economic status has a high impact on attainment. This is also true for some high-performing PISA participants, in particular, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, and Belgium.

Source: PISA 2009: how does the social attainment gap in England compare with countries internationally? (2012), Department for Education