“The human mind is our fundamental resource”

It was John F. Kennedy who famously said ‘Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.’ The latest PISA scores were released yesterday and more than anything they draw attention to Kennedy’s words.


The USA ranked 19th in Science and 31st in Mathematics. The latest PISA scores also highlighted the same issues as the ones highlighted in 2012:

  • A potential source of inequality in learning opportunities and outcomes lies in the distribution of resources across students and schools.
  • About 20% of students in the United States scored below Level 2 in science literacy. This means that one in five 15-year-olds are below the baseline of proficiency at which students begin to demonstrate the skills that will enable them to participate effectively and productively in life.
  • The percentage of variation in science performance explained by students’ socioeconomic status has improved. However, the United States is stagnated in overall performance in all subjects, and there are still many students (20%) that perform below Level 2 in science.


So what is the take-home lesson from the latest PISA score?

Teachers have the largest in-school effects on student achievement (Hattie, 2003). Yet recent studies paint a grim picture of teacher satisfaction. New figures published by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics show a total of 68.8 million teachers will be needed worldwide by 2030 if we are to meet the goal of universal primary and secondary education. And this is where Kennedy’s words resonate.


Is it all Doom and Gloom then?

Not necessarily but there is a rising need to address teacher needs and satisfaction. One only has to look at the PISA scores to see what the competition is doing differently to be on top the game.

So what do the high-performing nations do differently?

They invest in early childhood education. They fully fund all of their schools. They make the teaching profession attractive and they support their teachers.

It is not just the amount of resources that matter for quality education, but how those resources are distributed. Heavy workloads means that all teachers – not just teachers in privileged schools – get access to quality professional learning opportunities and feel supported.

Whether it is the need for emphasis on STEM education, implement early childhood education, focus on equity in education the answer to solving all issues boils down to good teaching which from happy teachers.

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