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Cultural and societal factors in high-performing jurisdictions

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Crisp, Vicki 


This article aims to provide insights into some of the cultural and societal contextual factors that influence education systems, using a number of high-performing jurisdictions (HPJs) as case studies. Consideration of the education and assessment systems of HPJs around the world has become a strategy of some interest during education reform and/or development. However, it has been noted that when doing so, societal and cultural features of the jurisdictions need to be considered (e.g. Elliott and Phuong-Mai, 2008; Alexander, 2010; Oates, 2010; Barber, Donnelly and Rizvi, 2012). The effects of a particular educational system may well be influenced by such factors, and as a result the system of one jurisdiction will not necessarily transfer the educational and achievement benefits if simply replicated in the jurisdiction undergoing change.

This article has been written using various secondary sources such as relevant articles, books and reports, newspaper articles, blog posts and other online material. A number of researchers have previously summarised and analysed the features of HPJs, including some of the cultural factors, to identify the possible reasons for the high achievements of students (at least on some of the measures that have been influential, such as PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS). Such work, key examples being the work of the Center on International Education Benchmarking and the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) produced book Lessons from PISA for the United States: Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education, was particularly useful to the current article.

Six jurisdictions were chosen as the focus for this exploration of cultural and societal factors. The focus jurisdictions were: Alberta (Canada), Shanghai (China), Hong Kong, Singapore,Victoria (Australia), and New Zealand. A few additional jurisdictions for which cultural issues of interest were also noted during the literature review for this article are also mentioned briefly.



Psychology of assessment

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Research Matters

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Research Division, Cambridge University Press & Assessment

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