International evidence on what helps poor children succeed

A recent Policy Brief from the IEA (International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement) explores the issue of socio-economically disadvantaged pupils who are academically successful, or “academically resilient”.

The authors used data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) to explore how prevalent academically resilient pupils are across education systems and what factors are associated with academic resilience within those systems. They focussed on children aged 13/14 in 28 education systems with sufficient numbers of academically resilient pupils for analysis.

The findings included:

  • Environments of high academic achievement appear to support academic resilience among disadvantaged pupils. In general, education systems with lower percentages of disadvantaged pupils tended to produce larger percentages of academically resilient pupils (eg, Japan and Korea), whereas those with higher percentages of disadvantaged pupils tended to produce lower percentages of academically resilient pupils (eg, Morocco and Ghana).
  • Pupils’ high educational aspirations appear to be the strongest and most consistent predictor of academic resilience; and
  • School factors associated with academic resilience include teachers’ positive attitudes about pupils’ learning abilities, and schools’ emphasis on academic success.

However, the brief concludes that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and that policy makers in individual countries need to examine which factors are relevant in their own contexts.

Source: Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Students who are Academically Successful: Examining Academic Resilience Cross-nationally (2015), IEA.

What works in education around the world?

This report from the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement and the TIMSS PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College presents data from 9-10 year-old pupils in 34 countries who took both the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) assessments in 2011. Home environment information was also available because the PIRLS assessment includes a parent questionnaire. In total over 180,000 children, 170,000 parents, 14,000 teachers, and 6,000 school leaders participated in these two studies worldwide.

According to the authors, their analyses of the data suggest that, across countries, there are a number of school and home factors that can positively affect achievement in reading, mathematics, and science at the Year 5 level. For example, they say that when parents engage children in early literacy activities, it can help children develop both literacy and numeracy skills. The early literacy activities they mention include reading books, telling stories, singing songs, playing with alphabet toys, talking about things you’ve done or have read, playing word games, writing letters or words, and reading aloud signs and labels.

Source: TIMSS and PIRLS 2011: Relationships Among Reading, Mathematics, and Science Achievement at the Fourth Grade—Implications for Early Learning (2013), TIMSS PIRLS International Study Center.

Are standards slipping?

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has shown a decline in the relative performance of England’s secondary pupils. Although this has been a concern to policy makers (and others) a new report from the Institute of Education argues that policy decisions should not be made on PISA findings alone. It suggests that England’s drop in the PISA ranking is not replicated in another major assessment, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The author, John Jerrim, argues that there are possible data limitations in both surveys.

Source: England’s “plummeting” PISA test scores between 2000 and 2009: Is the performance of our secondary school pupils really in relative decline? (2011), Department of Quantitative Social Science