independent

Thursday 24 April 2014

'Above average' tag looks good until you study figures

The "above international average" ranking for Ireland in the latest tests sounds pretty good, until you take a closer look at the figures.

Being better than average is only that when, above that again, there is a distinct top tier of countries that performed "significantly higher" than the group in the middle. That is where a country depending on its education system to drive economic recovery wants to be, or at the very least tapping on its shoulder.

Ireland did well in reading, and was close enough behind the five top performers, one of which was Northern Ireland.

But in maths there are 13 countries with a "significantly higher" score, including Northern Ireland and England. In science, there are 17 countries in that "significantly higher" group, including England.

It looks impressive for more than twice the percentage of pupils in Ireland to be performing at the highest level in maths than the international norm.

But the gloss is taken off that when compared with the percentages achieved for Northern Ireland and England, 24pc and 18pc respectively.

Ireland is also ahead when it comes to highest achievers in science: 7pc versus 5pc.

For years, countries such as Finland, Singapore and Korea have been held up as the international poster boys for education. It now seems that there are also lessons to be learned much closer to home.

Irish Independent

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