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The study – based on independent tests sat by more than 500,000 schoolchildren – also showed: • Countries including Poland and Norway had overtaken the UK in the last three years • The UK performed just below the international average in maths but above in reading and significantly higher in science • The top performer in all three subjects was the region of Shanghai-China • Other parts of the Far East, such as Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, performed strongly, while Finland was again the highest ranked European nation for literacy, maths and science • Separate scores for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland showed the three countries were around the OECD average while Wales underperformed in every area • Countries where schools had more bureaucratic freedom performed better and the study showed a strong link between good discipline and high scores The performance tables – part of the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – are based on two-hour tests taken by children in secondary schools.This year, the study assessed how students used their knowledge and skills in real life, rather than just repeating facts and figures.Some 65 counties were listed in this year’s rankings compared with 54 three years ago.Today, the Coalition seized on the results as proof that Labour had failed to lift standards in comparison with other developed nations.However, Andy Burnham, the shadow education secretary, said: “English schools are better today than they were in the 80s and 90s but of course we all want them to be amongst the best in the world.


“Today’s report underlines the urgent need to reform our school system,” he said.“We need to learn from the best performing countries.


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