Research into primary education
February 8, 2008 3:54 AM   Subscribe

The Primary Review has published three research reports about primary school education in the UK and elsewhere. The Structure of Primary Education: England and Other Countries. Primary Curriculum and Assessment: England and Other Countries. Press release summarising some of the findings. posted by paduasoy (13 comments total)
via the Today programme.

I won’t pretend to have read all 38 pages of the report in question but I did look at its mealy-mouthed ‘conclusions’ at 7.4. The report appears to say only that starting kids in schools earlier doesn’t necessarily improve attainment; it’s not saying that packing the kids off to school at 4 is detrimental. Accordingly this is about cultural choices.

Rather than an attainment-oriented approach, perhaps socio-cultural, even environmental factors (Britain’s terrible weather for instance) are responsible for earlier school attendance. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to postulate that largely protestant Britain tends to have smaller immediate family sizes than catholic European states. Furthermore British families tend to cleave to nuclear rather than extended orientation; a trend exacerbated by pronounced labour market flexibility (and therefore geographical relocation for work) over the past 20 or so years.

Even so, 4 has always seemed to me to be a bit early for formal learning – I’d love our little boy to have a few more years of ‘fun as learning’ prior to starting ‘edumacation’ at about 6 or so.
posted by dmt at 4:16 AM on February 8, 2008

I agree with dmt. In fact I think starting school attandance at an early age is more than just a social choice but is in fact de facto state supported child care. I don't think primary schools are particularly pleased with this situation (they're in the business of teaching, not providing day care) but that's how it is.
posted by patricio at 5:18 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow. The press release had a lot of words but said just about nothing. I'm pretty sure that is what is taught in English schools.

If you want to know what is wrong with the English education all you need to know is that in order to fail a University course you pretty much have to be dead. Even then you will still get the chance to resit the final and if you don't pass that you may get a medical concession and still receive a passing grade. It may be difficult to obtain a posthumous degree though since you won't be able to pay your fees unless you have set up direct debit arrangement. This is advised for all students who may have terminal illnesses.
posted by srboisvert at 5:20 AM on February 8, 2008

Finland has the highest levels of literacy in the world. It regularly tops similar lists for science, mathmetics and problem solving.

Children start school at seven.
posted by MrMerlot at 5:53 AM on February 8, 2008

"In addition, all children in state primary schools are entitled to religious education and to be involved in a daily act of collective worship."
Page 3 of the report. It would cause a big fuss here in the States.

I checked some random data of the facts in the first table. It does not appear all that accurate. The reference list does not seem to indicate where they got their data, just a statement in the text about a questionnaire. Bad report.
posted by francesca too at 6:35 AM on February 8, 2008

Finland has the highest levels of literacy in the world. It regularly tops similar lists for science, mathmetics and problem solving.

I understand that these reports are from the UK, but using Finland as an example is silly. It doesn't have the population, urban density or multi-ethnic tensions that the UK (or the US) has. There's no evidence that Finland's social institution would scale up to the size of the UK generally or would continue to function in a place of high urban density like London.

And what do children do until seven if both parents are working?
posted by Pastabagel at 7:17 AM on February 8, 2008

And what do children do until seven if both parents are working?

State-subsidized day care, mostly.
posted by jedicus at 7:28 AM on February 8, 2008

easy Pastabagel, comparing the UK and Finland is far from silly, but the point i thought i was obviously making was *the most succesful education system in the world* starts school much later than practically every other country in the OECD.
posted by MrMerlot at 8:52 AM on February 8, 2008

It should also be noted that Finland has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world....
posted by zeoslap at 9:56 AM on February 8, 2008

francesca too, which table did you look at?
posted by paduasoy at 11:06 AM on February 8, 2008

Finland's suicide rate is not as high as you think .... not that its got much to do with there policy of allowing children's imaginations to develop on their own, without the rigours of school, until they are seven.

Even though Finns go to school for a shorter time than people in other countries, study after study after study says they end up smarter. Suicide's got nothing to do with it.
posted by MrMerlot at 11:28 AM on February 8, 2008

paduasoy I checked Table I of Appendix 1 in the third link: what I looked was at the places where the black dots were missing, indicating that the countries were not providing primary education in that specific area. It was easy for me to look up Italy, since I can read italian well. What I found was that the curriculum does require mandatory instructions in all the areas that were lacking a dot, except env. So I guess that Italy does not provide instruction in environmental practices.

Then I looked at the US status, which has dots in every category: I put three kids through the system here in the US. Believe me, they did not get exposed to a lot the subjects indicated in the Table, mandatory or otherwise. They managed to finally educate themselves, in college.

The reason I called that report bad, and I probably should not have, is the lack of correlation between statements and bibligraphy. I realized a little belatedly that non-scientific reports do not require a lot of stringency in bibligraphy. I retract the "bad report".

It was not a criticism on the post: I found it interesting.
posted by francesca too at 12:28 PM on February 8, 2008

Thanks, francesca too, interesting - I'll email them about the source of those data and see what they say.
posted by paduasoy at 11:58 PM on February 8, 2008

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