Britons 'expect less from children'

This Is Lancashire: Parental expectation is lower in the UK than in East Asian countries, according to Sir Michael Barber Parental expectation is lower in the UK than in East Asian countries, according to Sir Michael Barber

UK parents are less likely to push their children to succeed at school than those in East Asian nations, an education expert has suggested.

Sir Michael Barber said that some British parents tend to assume that a child's academic success is down to whether they are born "bright" and do not expect effort to be rewarded with good grades.

His comments came as education firm Pearson published a new Learning Curve Index, which ranks 39 countries on their educational performance.

The Index puts the UK in sixth place, behind South Korea, which takes the top spot, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Finland.

Completing the top 10 are Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland and Poland.

It says that the UK's position is down to improvements in its scores in international tests as well as a rise in the university graduation rate.

Sir Michael, Pearson's chief education advisor, said that the top five nations were "significantly ahead" other countries.

Asked about the influence of parents, he said that in many Pacific Asian cultures, there is " a strong belief that effort will be rewarded" and that if you try hard and work hard you will achieve higher standards.

" Whereas in Britain and America, particularly, there is a perception that you are born either bright and the education system pulls that through, or doesn't. And that has a big impact on attitudes," he said.

Sir Michael said that parental expectation is very high in Asian nations

"The pressure from parents for students in specific Asian systems to achieve well in school and spend long evenings on their homework is very, very high and some would argue too high. I am not making that point but you hear that argument made.

"There is a contrast between those attitudes and here, where some parents don't exert that kind of pressure for achievement, don't expect effort to be rewarded and do think that either their child is really clever or isn't and sometimes reinforce that in a way that is unhelpful."

The new Index, drawn up by the Economist Intelligence Unit, says that a number of emerging economies are pumping more money into education, but that this is not yet improving results.

A report on the findings suggests that the nations taking the top positions have done so due to a "culture of accountability" which sees teachers, parents and pupils take responsibility for education.

Sir Michael said: "Governments around the world are under pressure to deliver better learning outcomes because they are increasingly important to people's lifelong success. The Learning Curve provides an ever-deeper knowledge base about precisely how education systems improve themselves.

"The rise of Pacific Asian countries, which combine effective education systems with a culture that prizes effort above inherited "smartness", is a phenomenon that other countries can no longer ignore."

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