Why do we agonise about our results in Pisa when we take no interest in the tests? Different countries place a different emphasis on this programme and get results that accord with that emphasis.
The OECD requires a minimum of 5,000 candidates per country. That is less than 1 per cent of the relevant cohort in the UK (Pisa does not publish a breakdown within the UK) and I have no idea how they are selected.
Do you know anyone who has ever taken these tests? Do you know the syllabus? Is it any wonder the UK is outperformed by countries that factor Pisa participation into their curriculum?
Our education system has many failings, but if we rely on Pisa to justify changes when we don’t prepare for the assessment then we are in danger of heading in entirely the wrong direction.
Peter English, Rhewl, Denbighshire
The purpose of education is to enrich students’ lives through personal and professional fulfilment. It is not to advance schools or countries up league tables.
If students can see no clear career path in science or mathematics, perhaps because the best jobs have been exported to China, then no amount of bullying of teachers or of students is going to enhance their performance.
Incidentally, who are the scientists and mathematicians in the Government? Do any of them know what they’re talking about?
Gavin P Vinson, London N10
Michael Gove promises reforms to improve the position of English pupils in the OECD league tables. China and Korea have better ways of counting as a feature of their languages. The Pinyin romanisation of Chinese is an excellent system and the Hangul orthography used for Korean is as good as it can be. In Europe, the spelling of Finnish is so good that Finns do not need dictionaries to tell them how words are spelled.
Mr Gove should consider reforms of the English language and its spelling to raise standards of numeracy and literacy in England’s schools.
Robert Craig, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
How strange that the UK has been gradually falling down the international education league tables since 1990. Was that not the time when the National Curriculum was introduced and the Ofsted inspection system created? Is this a mere coincidence or cause and effect?
Ann Coles, Fareham, Hampshire
In spite of Britain’s low Pisa scores, its children are happier than those in China. Does that mean that ignorance is bliss?
Stan Labovitch, Windsor
Cameron’s Faustian bargain with China
David Cameron’s calculation that sacrificing Tibet is in Britain’s interests is as unwise as it is unprincipled. Just 7 per cent of British people questioned in an ICM poll for Free Tibet consider trade with China more important than human rights in Tibet.
Beyond these shores, raising human rights in Sri Lanka and burying them in China sends an unmistakeable signal that there is an inverse relationship between the wealth of a country and the UK’s willingness to defend those it oppresses. Britain cannot expect such double standards to go unnoticed, or our standing in the world not to suffer as a result.
As an occupied country whose people face severe oppression precisely because they seek freedom and self-determination, Tibet is a test case for principle and statesmanship. Mr Cameron has failed that test and his Faustian bargain with China will have repercussions far beyond Tibet.
Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, Director, Free Tibet, London N1
Leveson and a free press
Andreas Whittam Smith (“How the Leveson Report stopped the press in its tracks”, 29 November) deserves praise for revisiting the Leveson Report on its anniversary and for reminding us of the appalling behaviour by some national newspapers that made that inquiry necessary. He is quite wrong, however, in suggesting that the Royal Charter offers potential for state interference in the press, or would in any way inhibit ethical journalism.
The Charter painstakingly seals off press self-regulation from political meddling. The auditing body it establishes must be entirely independent of politicians. And the Charter lays down that no self-regulator can have power “to prevent the publication of any material, by anyone, at any time”.
When Whittam Smith asserts that papers choosing not to join the Charter system could face ruinous exemplary damages in the courts he has, I’m afraid, got the wrong end of the stick. Newspapers have risked exemplary damages for years if they libelled someone outrageously; what is new under the Royal Charter system is that if they join a self-regulator meeting Charter standards they will have immunity. In other words, papers are being offered unprecedented protection from exemplary damages.
The Charter is society’s response to a collapse in corporate governance at some newspapers that has caused untold misery. It is supported by the overwhelming majority of the public. Further, as you report (“Salman Rushdie, Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams call on newspapers to accept Royal Charter”, 29 November), leading figures in the world of free expression, from the arts and broadcasting to the law and human rights activism, are backing it.
The proprietors of the big newspaper groups stand alone, deaf and in denial. In the interests of all those who risk suffering the effects of unethical practices in the future, it is time they listened.
Brian Cathcart, Executive Director, Hacked Off, London SW1
Your report of Alan Rusbridger’s grilling by the Home Affairs Select Committee (4 December) reveals that, to some Conservative MPs, the placing of information of great public interest in the public domain is tantamount to treason.
This amounts to a threat to fundamental freedoms, not the least of them that of the press. As the Murdoch papers and the remainder of our predominantly right-wing sheets have been eloquent in their opposition to the implementation of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations on precisely the grounds that they represented such a threat, we must hope that they will be as united in their defence of The Guardian.
Michael Rosenthal, Banbury, Oxfordshire
Keith Vaz MP may question Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s patriotism over the Snowden leaks, but so long as you observe the laws of this country, you can love or loathe this country as you choose. Public patriotism should never be a requirement of being a good citizen.
Ian McKenzie, Lincoln
No satire in royal family portrait
I am afraid that some misunderstandings have arisen in your 26 November article about my group portrait of the Danish royal family.
In the phone interview with your writer, in my imperfect English, I tried to explain that rather than providing a realistic depiction of the royal family, my objective was to provide a rendering of the royals as symbols of the Danish state. But then the article goes on to quote me as saying: “This is satire.”
From my angle, there is no satirical intent whatsoever. If such an intent had indeed been present, it is unlikely that Her Majesty the Queen would have given her approval. What others may read into the portrait, such as all the horror nonsense, I have of course no way of controlling.
The article also says that my depiction of the eight-year-old future crown prince Christian is like “that of a toy figure”. The toy figure I was referring to was the little toy horse with King Gorm the Old in the very bottom of the painting, meant to symbolise the thousand-year-old Danish monarchy.
But it is entirely correct that I have placed young prince Christian in the very front of the painting as the person that the viewer expects will bring the kingdom into the future, and that I wanted to show “the weight on his shoulders”.
Hope this clears it up.
Thomas Kluge, Korsør, Denmark
Some people like Europe
Hey Ukip, Eurosceptics. In Ukraine the people are on the streets demanding to get closer to the EU. Do you think you are missing something?
It is surely time the British woke up, committed to Europe and made it work.
Peter Downey, Bath
Given Amazon’s plans to start using drones for deliveries, is anyone taking bets on how long it will be until the day six innocent people are killed at a wedding party in Droitwich at the same time as the head of al-Qa’ida in Islamabad finds a Dr Who box set on his doorstep?
Steve Rudd, Huddersfield