Maths Memos

International comparisons and maths education


As a geologist, I have been lucky to travel to countries all over the globe. Seeing what is being done elsewhere, experiencing different cultures and learning new approaches always offers opportunities to learn. This is no different in education. Politicians and the media frequently compare what is happening in other countries with what is happening in England. Indeed, in recent years England's mathematics performance has often been portrayed as below par and it is compared with countries that are thought to have had more success. Jurisdictions that have performed well in international league tables, such as Shanghai and Singapore, have influenced recent reform.

In its Maths Snapshot 'International comparisons and maths education' ACME sets out the ways that international comparisons are drawn on by politicians and the media and identifies some of the challenges in copying policy from other jurisdictions. We note that education systems are complex and therefore it can be really difficult to capture the whole picture - what works in one country may not necessarily work in another. ACME also offers some advice about how to use international comparisons, emphasising the need for expert analysis and research and the importance of expert design and trialling when a 'borrowed' policy is introduced.

I hope that I've provided a flavour of the themes discussed in the Maths Snapshot. Take a look here to read more.



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