The Tyranny of the International Horse Race
There is a close analogy between the concept of the effectiveness of an individual school, and the concept of the effectiveness of the national education system.
The publication of league tables in relation to examination results, whether national or local, can improve the effectiveness of an individual school, by stimulating a useful process of analysis and action which leads to a genuine raising of educational standards. Alternatively, pressure to move up the league tables can trigger teacher stress and short-term anti-educational solutions, like rejection of poor attenders or low-attaining pupils by their nearest schools, or changing to an examination board that sets less challenging questions and gives higher grades for a given level of performance. Hard-working teachers may become disillusioned deciding with some justification that league table results do not provide a valid evaluation of their own effectiveness. Similarly, the publication of international league tables can all too easily be used by politicians and others to put additional pressure on an already over-burdened education system, and to justify short-term policies which may not address genuine weaknesses.