England’s best students behind Asian ones


The brightest Math students in England are in fact two years behind the cleverest students from Asia. A new British study on education reveals that at the age of 10 the best students in England are matching their peers from Asia, but by the age of 16, they are roughly two years behind.

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The international rankings for the 2009 Pisa math tests show that England dropped to 28th place. According to both researchers and politicians, this fact is concerning, because it shows not only a crisis in the country’s education, but also lead to another issue. Having a large number of young, bright minds is essential for technological development and economic growth. The researchers at the Institute of Education, University of London, analyzed data from two international studies – the Pisa, or the Programme for International Student Assessment, and Timss, or the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study.

The Timss math tests were taken first in 2003 by 9- and 10-year-olds, and then in2007 by 13- and 14-year-olds. In 2009 15- and 16-year-old pupils took the Pisa math tests. Students from 13 countries were included – Singapore, England, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, Slovenia, Norway, the United States, Russia, Japan and others. According to the analysis, the gap between the brightest students from England and Asia (Hong Kong and Taiwan) widens between the ages of 10 and 16. In fact, English pupils around 10 already show some slowing down in Math, but by the time they are 16, this decline has become more visible.

Although British education has always been highly valued worldwide, it seems that it is now going through some serious issues. The researchers think that there are many factors determining Asian high performance, from the fact that their cultures are considering education very important, to Asian teachers’ high salaries. Whatever teachers and students in Asia do, the issue remains – England’s pupils aren’t just good as them. Elizabeth Truss, the education minister, expressed her opinion about the problem. For her, discipline and tougher tests, as well as higher-quality teaching should solve the problem. But is this a long-term solution and are England’s schools as worthy as people think?


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