What matters most in education? Maybe not tuition

The Straits Times
Dec 8, 2016

Think tuition works? Maybe not.

A study of students' results in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) test shows that kids with tuition perform worse than kids without. Education economist Kelvin Seah pored through Pisa test results for 2011 to arrive at this conclusion.

In the latest Pisa test results released on Tuesday, Singapore students topped test scores for maths, science and reading, out of 540,000 students in 72 economies. But Pisa has drawn flak overseas, with detractors saying it is focused on short-term traits driven by economic cycles.

Senior education correspondent Sandra Davie says Pisa's value goes beyond test rankings - the detailed surveys students fill out give researchers a rich source of data. These show that class size does not matter for performance; neither does tuition or the use of computers in the classroom.

So, what does matter?

Education researcher Mark Boylan explains why East Asian cities top the tables. That is due to: High teacher quality, the mindset that education is important and a coordinated push to change the education system in line with what evidence says about what works.

The Straits Times

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.