Andreas Schleicher

The latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) have been released. Professor Andreas Schleicher, Director of the Education and Skills
Directorate of the OECD, described the UK’s performance as “so, so”.  PISA made recommendations for lessons countries could learn to improve their education systems, and among these was a point about the problems of academic selection.

PISA reports for 20 years have shown that selection, especially at a young age, is harmful to the majority of children. The 11-plus is heavily influenced by private tutoring, which favours richer families, and this test measures social class as much as it measures academic ability. It is worth pointing out that nearly 20% of England’s education system still operates a selective school system.

Avoiding selection is one of the nine lessons from the COVID pandemic that the OECD recommends that countries learn if they wish to improve their education systems.

PISA’s report says, “By minimising or delaying the use of grade repetition, tracking and ability grouping, systems give students greater opportunities to share learning experiences with higher-achieving peers and, at the same time, give “late bloomers” more time to catch up academically… The more stratified an education system is, the more varied the pathways along which students progress through school, and the more likely it is that disadvantaged students are placed in the least academically oriented and demanding learning environments, potentially limiting their educational opportunities.”

The PISA report also states, “PISA 2022 data show that in OECD countries with more stratification policies in place, students’ socio-economic status was more strongly associated with mathematics performance (i.e. greater socio-economic unfairness). Of these stratification policies, some were also negatively associated with education systems’ average mathematics performance, even after accounting for per capita GDP.”

It is clear that the latest data from PISA shows the same ill-effects of selective schooling as many previous reports. It is worth reading the latest report in full for detailed evidence on the poor results from selective nations around the globe.

OECD (2023), “Selecting and grouping students”, in PISA 2022 Results (Volume II): Learning During – and
From – Disruption, OECD Publishing, Paris.