Forget smaller classes, pay the teachers more. It is unlike those mean-spirited, bean-counting economists to come out on the side of higher pay for the workers so perhaps we should pay attention to one of the findings of an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report out today on education.

Having studied test results in all 33 of its member countries plus 32 non-members including Russia, other former Soviet states and the Chinese regions of  Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao, the OECD reached the conclusion that school systems considered successful tend to prioritise teachers’ pay over smaller classes.

School systems, the report says, differ in the amount of time, human, material and financial resources they invest in education. Equally important, school systems also vary in how these resources are spent:

  • At the level of the school system and net of the level of national income, PISA shows that higher teachers’ salaries, but not smaller class sizes, are associated with better student performance. teachers’ salaries are related to class size in that if spending levels are similar, school systems often make trade-offs between smaller classes and higher salaries for teachers. the findings from PISA suggest that systems prioritising higher teachers’ salaries over smaller classes tend to perform better, which corresponds with research showing that raising teacher quality is a more effective route to improved student outcomes than creating smaller classes.
  • Within countries, schools with better resources tend to do better only to the extent that they also tend to have more socio-economically  advantaged students. Some countries show a strong relationship between schools’ resources and their socio-economic and demographic background, which indicates that resources are inequitably distributed according to schools’ socio-economic and demographic profiles.
  • In other respects, the overall lack of a relationship between resources and outcomes does not show that resources are not important, but that their level does not have a systematic impact within the prevailing range. If most or all schools have the minimum resource requirements to allow effective teaching, additional material resources may make little difference to outcomes.

You will find further details of this latest OECD tri-annual Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) survey of 15-year-olds on Crikey’s The Stump website.

Women of the world beat the boys at reading but we calculate better, so there! In the PISA 2009 reading assessment, girls outperform boys in every participating country by an average, among OECD countries, of 39 PISA score points — equivalent to more than half a proficiency level or one year of schooling.

But when it comes to mathematics boys get their revenge. On average across OECD countries, boys outperform girls in mathematics by 12 score points while gender differences in science performance tend to be small, both in absolute terms and when compared with the large gender gap in reading performance and the more moderate gender gap in mathematics. The ranks of top-performing students are filled nearly equally with girls and boys.

On average across OECD countries, 4.4% of girls and 3.8% of boys are top performers in all three subjects, and 15.6% of girls and 17.0% of boys are top performers in at least one subject area. While the gender gap among top-performing students is small in science (1% of girls and 1.5% of boys), it is significant in reading (2.8% of girls and 0.5% of boys) and in mathematics (3.4% of girls and 6.6% of boys).

Pay back for Pay Pal et al. I get the feeling that the world is on the verge of a new kind of guerilla warfare and that the governments jumping up and down in indignation at having their diplomatic follies exposed by WikiLeaks simply have no idea of the forces they have unleashed.

Pay Pal and Visa will surely pay a price for cutting off WikiLeaks’s access. There will surely be many more attacks like those by the group called Anonymous that has hit sites that have refused to do business with WikiLeaks with a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks.

And a real danger for Labor. I am no expert on these social network things but I am amazed how angry many of my contacts are at what is happening to Julian Assange. And not just old Labor voting mates either.

The scorn being heaped on Julia Gillard for her spineless attitude towards an Australian citizen comes from people across the political spectrum. And as for Attorney General Robert McClelland, he is well on the way to becoming the real hate figure of Australian politics.

The Labor desertions go on. My admiration for NSW Premier Kristina Keneally increases with every scandal and every resignation. Talk about dignity under pressure! This woman has it in spades. Mrs Keneally is smart enough to know that she has virtually no chance of being Premier after the state election in March but she keeps turning up for work each day with a stoic optimism and cheerful disposition in place.

Yesterday she was confronted with an Independent Commission Against Corruption report declaring that one of her Labor colleagues was involved in the fiddling of allowances for staff members. Today the news was of the 38 year old Parramatta MP Tanya Gadiel declaring that she would be the 19th Labor member not seeking re-election.