Government response

International curriculums: ‘could do better’ analysis published

Michael Gove comments on an analysis of international curriculums and the lessons we can learn in reforming the national curriculum.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Tim Oates, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development at Cambridge Assessment, has today published ‘Could do better: using international comparisons to refine the national curriculum in England’, an analysis of international curriculums and the lessons we can learn as we reform our own national curriculum.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

This fascinating and insightful paper offers a concise analysis of some of the problems with our current national curriculum and helps explain why so many other nations are outpacing us in educational performance. The debate about our cational curriculum now has to be seen in an international context. The best-performing education nations deliberately set out to compare themselves against international benchmarks - learning from each other and constantly asking what is required to help all children do better.

Shortly, my department will launch its own review of the national curriculum and the remit will explicitly, for the first time, require benchmarking against the most successful school systems. This - as Tim Oates makes clear - has to be done with great care to avoid learning the wrong lessons from countries with very different cultures. But it is essential if we are to keep pace with the world’s best.

Tim Oates said:

We should appraise carefully both international and national research in order to drive an evidence-based review of the national curriculum and make changes only where justified, in order to avoid unnecessary disruption to the education system.

However, simply importing another country’s classroom practices would be a gross error. A country’s national curriculum - both its form and content - cannot be considered in isolation from the state of development of these vital ‘control factors’. They interact. Adjust one without considering development of the others, and the system may be in line for trouble.

You can read Tim Oates’ paper on the Cambridge Assessment website.

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Published 18 November 2010