Schools given new global comparison tool for reading, maths and science

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Schools in Europe will be able to benchmark their students’ proficiency in reading, maths and science against the world’s top education systems using a new tool being administered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The OECD has developed the new tool based on its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to help individual schools benchmark their students.

The tool, intended for assessing 15-year old youngsters, will give teachers a more complete picture of student performance and attitudes than normal tests allow so that they can work out the best way to improve results.

Europe compares badly with Asia and other world regions when it comes to the number of science and maths graduates, leading to a looming shortage of skilled engineers in the future.

>> Read: Industry leaders team up on science and maths education

The European Commission believes that science education is key to innovation, with some 20 million new, high-skilled jobs expected to be created by 2020.

Tackling low achievement in those three areas is one of the EU's 5 key targets for education and training, which the Commission considers as "a considerable challenge" given the current trend. The aim is that by 2020, less than 15% of 15-year-olds should be classed as 'low-achieving' in those basic skills, as measured by PISA tests.

Computer science

The OECD's new benchmark tool comes amid calls for the focus of school assessments to be broadened to include computer science as a core competency, alongside reading and maths.

Alfred Spector, the vice president of research at Internet search giant Google, told an innovation forum convened in Brussels on 26 March, that children need to understand computer science as a basic of their education to keep up with fast-paced technological advances.

Spector said that computer science was rapidly evolving, with computers capable of thinking for themselves, and that children need to be able to navigate this evolving landscape.

The call was endorsed by Androulla Vasilliou, the commissioner for education and youth.

“Our education systems are lagging behind. We have been slow surrounding new technology. We have to be quicker in our reactions,” she told the forum.

The European Commission believes science education is key to innovation, with some 20 million new, high-skilled jobs expected to be created by 2020.

An expert group set by by the EU executive in 2007 recommended an overhaul of science teaching in European schools to fully harness potential and inspire future generations of science students.

  • Autumn 2013: new testing comparison available for European schools

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