Center on International Education Benchmarking

The Study Guide

1. OECD Report Documents Challenges Facing Immigrant Students

Immigrant students are nearly twice as likely as native students to perform poorly academically, and are more likely to have a weak sense of belonging, to have low life satisfaction, and to have schoolwork-related anxiety according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The report found that almost one in four 15-year-olds in OECD and European Union countries are foreign-born or have at least one foreign-born parent, and the number of students who are migrants increased by six percentage points from 2003 to 2015. The report found that socio-economic disadvantage and language barriers are the greatest obstacles for success for immigrant students, and suggested steps education systems can take to help students from immigrant backgrounds integrate into their communities. These include providing early assessment of language and other skills, targeted language training, anti-bullying programs, and access to extracurricular programs. More information is available from the OECD.

2. UK Teachers’ Union Calls for Five Percent Teacher Pay Increase

The National Union of Teachers (NUT), which represents educators across England and Wales, has called for a five percent teacher pay increase beginning in September of this year. The union is in the process of merging with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers to form the National Education Union, the largest education union in the UK. NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney explained that prospective and current teachers view teachers’ salaries as less competitive than those of other similarly-educated professionals, leading to “a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention” in England. In addition, the prior system of annual experience-based pay raises has shifted toward performance-based pay, making salaries less predictable for teachers. The NUT argues that the government should provide additional funding for the pay increase instead of requiring a redistribution of funds in current school budgets. The School Teachers’ Review Body, which advises the government on the teaching profession, will make a recommendation on a pay settlement later this year. Read more from The Guardian.

Teacher in Classroom

3. Private Spending on Tutoring at All-Time High in South Korea

The Korea Herald reports that spending on private tutoring in South Korea has reached an all-time high, according to a survey conducted by Statistics Korea. Monthly spending on private education averaged US$254 per child in 2017, up 5.9 percent from the previous year. Students received an average of 6.1 hours of private lessons after school every week last year. In what is now a US$17.3 billion industry, families generally focus on key subjects such as Korean, English and mathematics but spending on sports and arts has also been on the rise. One concern is that students from low-income families who cannot afford private tutoring are likely being left behind in the quest to perform well on South Korea’s high-stakes exams that determine entry into prestigious universities. More data from the survey can be found here and here.

4. Fewer Hong Kong Students Required to Take Grade Three Assessment This Year

Education Secretary Kevin Yeung Yun-hung has announced that only one in ten randomly selected grade three students must take the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) this year, following recommendations from a government committee that reviewed the test. The TSA assesses English, Chinese and mathematics in grades three, six and nine, but this change affects only grade three. Primary schools will also no longer receive performance reports based on test results. Previously, all grade three students took the test, and performance reports were released to schools, but not publicly. The review of the grade three TSA was conducted in response to concerns about test preparation pressure on primary school students. Some in the education community continue to express concerns, as schools can still choose to require all students to take the test in order to receive school-level performance reports. Yeung has pledged to monitor TSA implementation to prevent excessive focus on test preparation. Read more from the South China Morning Post.

5. Gaokao Reforms Show Promise After Initial Pilots

China’s National Higher Education Examination, the gaokao, has been a prominent feature of the country’s education system since the early 1950s. Nearly 10 million students sit annually for the high-stakes exam which dictates the future academic path of secondary school graduates across the country. Traditionally, the exam assessed only a rigid set of subjects (Chinese literature, English language, mathematics, and subjects covering the social or natural sciences), but that’s changing after pilot programs to imbue the assessment with more flexibility have shown promising effects. In 2014, schools in Shanghai and Zhejian provinces granted students greater choice in the subjects they sit for on the gaokao as part of a broader effort to focus the curricula of secondary schools on ensuring graduates are well-rounded. In 2017, Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong and Hainan provinces were granted the same flexibility. China’s minister of education, Chen Baosheng, said these efforts are producing greater options and choice for students, have expanded social activities at China’s schools, and resulted in the creation of exciting new features in the provinces’ schools such as innovation labs that are “conductive to students’ well-rounded development.” More provinces will receive greater flexibility this year, with 17 regions implementing the gaokao reforms.


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