Opinion Former Article

NASUWT: International education comparisons need to be treated with caution

Commenting on the report released by the Sutton Trust on achievement by young people in Maths in international tests, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers' union said:

"Teachers across the country want to ensure that all pupils are achieving. There is more that can be done and no one is complacent.

"However, this daily denigration of our education system by one self-promoting organisation after another is corrosive and demoralising for pupils and teachers alike, particularly when simplistic conclusions are drawn from highly complex information.

"The Maths tests to which the Sutton Trust refers are one-off tests and those responsible for devising the tests caution against using them to make such hard and fast comparisons between countries.

"Their conclusions raise more questions than they answer. They are not comparing like with like.

"The education systems are different. The pupils taking the tests are selected differently. Some countries do nothing but prepare for the tests for months. Some, like Shanghai may not enter a pupil sample generally reflective of the student population and use crammer sessions to prepare.

"Such comparisons, therefore, need to be viewed with extreme caution.

"We can always learn lessons from international comparators but they should not be used as a stick to beat an education system which day in day out is delivering for all children, not just an elite."


Ben Padley,

Press Officer,

Campaigns and Communications,


Hillscourt Education Centre



B45 8RS

0121 457 6269

07785 463 119




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