Scotland’s two largest teaching unions, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) have noted today’s publication of PISA testing data but urged caution in how this data is viewed.  Both unions believe that, while the PISA data offers some interesting areas for debate, its worth in measuring the value of any country’s education system is limited.

The EIS and the SSTA urge the Scottish Government and Opposition Parties to glance briefly at this data but continue to concentrate on the development of meaningful curriculum reform in Scotland aimed at the creation of a fair and just society.

Commenting, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, “While this report seeks to measure performance in school education there are significant questions over the testing methods used to gather data and the degree to which like is being compared with like. The circumstances in different countries vary widely, and individual nations take significantly different approaches to education in terms of how schools are organised, funded and run.  There is also concern that, in some countries, a heavy emphasis is placed on preparing pupils to perform well in these tests specifically to boost PISA rankings.  In Scotland, we have rejected this damaging ‘league-table’ approach which focuses on measuring performance in certain narrow areas of the curriculum.  Our focus continues, through the Curriculum for Excellence, to provide a broad educational experience that offers all pupils the chance to reach their full potential.  Also interesting to note in the findings is the clear identification of the impact of poverty on educational performance, and also a strong link between high levels of investment in teacher pay and highly ranked educational performance.”

The Acting General Secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, Alan McKenzie, commented, “These studies have become little more than an invitation to beat ourselves up unnecessarily. While the scale of the exercise is immense given the number of nations involved the scope is limited.  The focus only on narrow performance outcomes in three areas merely encourages certain nations to concentrate on the rapid ascent of the league tables without reference to the wider exercise of good educational practice.  Yet again we are reminded of the need to measure what is valuable not value what is measurable.  Even before the results were publicised the Coalition and Opposition parties south of the border have become engaged in a blame game, point scoring exercise.  In this country we should be more measured and remember that some of the nations whose improvement has been, on the face of it, good enjoy an unenviable record on human rights.  While we would not wish to ignore this data, let us keep Scotland’s eye on the ball.”


Further information from:

Alan McKenzie (Acting General Secretary, SSTA), tel 0131 313 7300

Brian Cooper (Head of Communications, EIS), tel 0131 225 6244