First of all, how did we get so far behind? How can the English, not be the best at English?
Then there are many cultural and sociological elements to consider. How can we possibly compete with countries where school hours and homework hours are longer? Countries where people think and know that hard work can pay off! I know that some of our schools are teaching pupils about Mindset theory etc but is it all too little too late?
Do parents and pupils have more respect for teachers in those high ranking countries? Perhaps, dare I say it, the selection process for teachers is tougher in their countries? Are their teachers trusted and given more freedom? Are their teachers more numerate and literate than ours?
The fact remains, that trying to compare Britain to other countries that are so dissimilar to us might not be helpful. I am not by any means saying that standards shouldn't rise. They should! I believe that parents and teachers need to encourage pupils to learn basic facts and concepts at a younger age: reading, tables, number bonds, sounds and tricky words etc.
To that end I have been investigating the use of KIRFS and a super website for maths practise www.conkermaths.com , mentioned on Micheal Tidd's blog (courtesy of Jo Harbour). This prompted me to play Numberbonds to 5 Tennis with my 4 year old in the car. He picked it up right away. It doesn't take much for parents to support children a bit more at home. Helpful sites for parents can be shared on school webpages too, as understandably not all parents have had teacher training!
Perhaps Britain is still trying to find an optimal balance between Victorian style schooling and modern approaches including Independent learning; between drilling and exploring through play? But maybe that isn't what matters most?
Societal and cultural influences could count more than we counted on?