What can we learn from other improving school systems?

What can we learn from other improving school systems?

Wood paneled classroom with old wooden desks

Our eighth Parliamentary Research Enquiry brought together academics and policymakers to debate a recent McKinsey report 'How the world's most improved school systems keep getting better' and discuss which, if any, of the report's findings hold weight for future education reform.

Chaired by Graham Stuart MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, guest speakers included: Professor David Raffe - Professor of Sociology of Education, University of Edinburgh; Dr Marian Sainsbury - Head of Centre for Evidence and Evaluation, National Foundation for Educational Research; and Professor Lorraine Dearden - Research Fellow in the Education, Employment and Evaluation Sector, Institute for Fiscal Studies; and Professor of Economics and Social Statistics, Institute of Education.

Professor Raffe recommended that a better alternative is a 'policy learning' approach that uses cross-national comparisons to understand our own system better; that we better understand the processes and dynamics of change; that we should explore policy options and examples of good practice - not 'best' practice to be taken off-the-peg.  He also recommends that we learn from our own history, identify strengths and build on them.

Meanwhile, Dr Sainsbury shared some recent research comparing the core primary curriculum in England to those of other high performing countries.  These tended to feature a broad and demanding curriculum for Number (within mathematics), Physical processes and Life processes (within science); and an emphasis on reading comprehension rather than textual analysis (within reading) but similar to England in other respects - and sometimes England is more demanding.

Professor Dearden recommended: a need to measure school effectiveness better; that we recognise that socio-economic gaps arise before children even start primary school; and that improving outcomes at school is essential to close the socio-economic gap in Higher Education participation.

Cambridge Assessment’s regular series of Parliamentary Research Enquiries, of which this was the eighth, bring together members of the research, academic and education communities with policy makers and influencers. We look to provide an opportunity for those working in educational research to present the evidence base to policy makers.

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