Using international comparisons to refine the national curriculum

International comparisons should be used to inform countries’ domestic education policies, Tim Oates has told a major education conference. Cambridge Assessment’s Group Director of Assessment Research and Development was speaking at the Mayor’s Education Conference in London.

“Can we learn everything from looking at other national systems? Seldom a good idea. Can we learn nothing? Well that’s absurd too, but we can of course learn something,” Mr Oates told the conference.

“We can benchmark standards internationally – we can identify what is humanly possible for nine, 10, 11-year-olds, and the possibility of high equity, high attainment, and high enjoyment.”

He went on to explode some myths about high-performing jurisdictions, including the claim that we can no longer learn from Finland as its educational performance is declining. He said there were clear “stand-out elements” in fast-improving jurisdictions, including a focus on teaching fewer things in greater depth at primary level, curriculum coherence, and the acquisition of both knowledge and skills - and not one at the expense of the other. He concluded by saying that to match the highest-performing systems countries need to achieve ‘curriculum coherence’ – aligning national and school curriculums, inspection, assessment, funding, professional development and accountability measures. 

“I believe that the sophisticated appeal to domestic and international evidence is vital – and by being evidence-based, the England national curriculum developments are taking things in the right direction”, he said. 

See below for the full transcript of Mr Oates speech.

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