A Scottish Education
By Keir Liddle
Scotland has a long and proud history of schooling and education as the first country since classical times to establish public schooling and by the end of the 17th century a significant proportion of the population was literate. However the education system has been much maligned and criticised in recent years and recently came under scrutiny again when the world education rankings from the OECD were released.
The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) is an internationally standardised assessment that was jointly developed by participating economies and administered to15-year-olds in schools. The assesement, whose results were released in December of last year, was the fourth that has been conducted and showed that the UK had slipped to 25th for reading, 28th for maths and 16th for science. In 2006, when 57 countries were included in the study, it was placed 17th, 24th and 14th respectively. Which led to much gnashing of teeth and discussing how education was failing the children of the United Kingdom.
In Scotland education is a devolved matter operating on a markedly different system from the rest of the UK and there is evidence to suggest that there is still plenty to be proud of in the Scottish education system. The OECD produced a report at the bequest of the Scottish Government to explore data gathered that related solely to Scotland and concluded:
Scotland is above the OECD average in all variables but one: The proportion of mathematics teachers is lower in Scotland than in the OECD countries on average.
However, the report indicated that there may be issues with the “disciplinary climate” within Scottish schools with around 10% of the variance in student performance compared to an average of 3% elsewhere being explained by this variable.
Given that Scotland’s education system seems to be in reasonably rude health it perhaps comes as no suprise that a recent Royal Society “State Of The Nation project” report recommended that the rest of the UK could learn a thing or two from the Scottish education system. As reported here:
The society’s State of the Nation report, which draws on government figures, found that almost half (49.7%) of Scottish students aged 16-19 took higher science in 2009. This was much higher than England, where 27.7% of pupils took the equivalent A-level science. In Wales the figure was 26.6% and in Northern Ireland 37.4%.
The report went on to suggest that the UK’s education system be brought more closely into line with Scotland’s in order to improve attainment in STEM subjects – perhaps good news for physicists, as 90% of Scottish schools send pupils to University Physics departments.