Every education minister I meet is interested to know what he or she can learn from other countries and what needs to be done to improve performance. Governments all around the world are under pressure to deliver improved learning outcomes because they are increasingly important ingredients of success. As a result, education ministers are on the search for evidence of what works more than they ever were before.
Of course, evidence carries risks – neither PISA nor any of the recognised rankings measure everything that matters – but overall this is an important and positive development.
The Learning Curve is a contribution to this growing evidence base. One element - the Index - combines a number of different international rankings – including PISA and TIMSS, as well as measures of adult skills – to provide the equivalent of a poll of polls of country performance. Furthermore, the Databank combines education input data with data on learning outcomes and social outcomes, such as employment and crime. We've made all this data openly available to researchers and others who want to draw their own conclusions.
The Databank is updated continuously, as new data becomes available. The Index is updated about every two years - the last time in May 2014.
As with any other approach to data analysis, The Learning Curve has limitations and needs to be approached with caution and judgement. The evidence can help to inform decision-making, but it does not tell you what to do.
Even so, since its launch in 2012 The Learning Curve is uncovering some clear trends. One is the continuing rise of a number of Pacific Asian countries, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, which combine effective education systems with a culture that prizes effort above inherited ‘smartness’. Another is the significant challenge of improving skills and knowledge in adulthood, for people who were let down by their school system. These two points are covered in Education and Skills For Life, a standalone report pubvlished in May 2014.
These and other lessons need to be debated and understood country by country so that each can learn, in a sophisticated way, how to do things better. Even the highest ranked countries in The Learning Curve Index are far from providing education that would ensure every single student is prepared for informed citizenship and 21st century employability.
The Learning Curve is just one of a number of projects that Pearson has initiated to help marshall the worlds behind the means for improving education. For example, Open Ideas is a series of papers be leading education experts, which offer new ideas on teaching and learning. These are collected at research.pearson.com.
Moreover, we are publicising the findings of studies into the effectiveness of our own products, both to show what is working (and is not), and the way to measure that. More of that at efficacy.pearson.com/progress.
I hope what you discover here is interesting, thought-provoking, and ultimately of use.
Sir Michael Barber
Chief education advisor of Pearson