International comparisons and education reform

International comparisons and education reform

In almost every country where we work the dominant political discourse in education is around international comparisons. Whether it is high performing jurisdictions like Hong Kong trying to maintain their lead, countries like Malaysia seeking to catch up or late-comers like Mongolia determined to drive their way up the league table, politicians and educationalists are grappling with education reform. Statistics from international benchmark tests like TIMSS, PIRLS and PISA are bandied about in support of one policy and another. More stress on vocational training vies with greater emphasis on academic ability, memorisation with critical thinking and practical knowledge with creativity – and all with an eye on other countries who are 'doing well'.

In the UK, the government in England seeks to create new syllabuses and examinations (called the English Baccalaureate Certificate or EBC) in the context of improving teacher quality and creating more autonomous schools while the government in Wales discusses a different approach (Scotland has had its own education system for very long time).

Cambridge Assessment Group Chief Executive Simon Lebus put the challenges, including the EBC, facing exam boards into context in a speech to staff in Cambridge given December 2012.

Asia Pacific is a particularly dynamic area in educational reform at the moment and our series ‘Notes from Asia Pacific’ gives an on-going view of various education initiatives across the region, while the Chief Executive of Cambridge International Examinations, Ann Puntis, has produced a number of vignettes of the state of play in key countries such as America, New Zealand and Singapore.

In Europe, our Group Director of Assessment Research and Development, Tim Oates (working with Dr Mike Coles) produced a seminal review of the changing nature of qualifications, policies and practices for the European Union’s European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training.

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