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‘Learning curve’ offers lessons for policymakers

Important economic, social and education facts about Saudi Arabia have been included in a new report released by Pearson.
Saudi Arabia’s public expenditure per pupil as a percentage of GDP per capita is estimated at 20.69 percent, according to researchers.
The graduation rate at tertiary level is 19.76 percent and the real GDP growth per head of population stands at 3.7 percent, the study says.
Pearson has published The Learning Curve: a new report designed to help policymakers, school leaders and academics identify the key factors which drive improved educational outcomes.
Finland and South Korea emerge as the clear “education superpowers” from the Global Index of Cognitive Skills and Educational Attainment, and both offer lessons for the Gulf.
The global study, carried out independently by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), includes a new Global Index of Cognitive Skills and Educational Attainment, drawing on existing data from the international OECD-PISA, TIMMS and PIRLS assessments, as well as country-level data about literacy and school and university completion rates.
It is hoped the report will prove useful to governments in the Gulf as they seek to further develop the significant gains seen in their education systems over the past decade.
New findings can help Gulf governments build on educational successes of recent years, said Christine Ozden, president of Pearson in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean, at the regional launch of The Learning Curve.
The Gulf region has experienced remarkable achievements in all levels of education over recent years, but policy makers admit there are still challenges that need to be overcome.
Pearson believes this report will be instrumental in providing regional governments with the qualitative research and data needed to make informed decisions about future policy directions.
Ozden said: “This report and accompanying website contain a wealth of useful and accessible data, and will therefore be an extremely useful resource for policy and decision makers in the Gulf.”
Ozden added: “Key education input and output indicators of countries in the region can be viewed online, as well as the socio economic performance of those countries, demonstrating the affect education has on the well-being of the public.”
The Learning Curve also provides policy lessons and internationally comparable data on education alongside economic and social data from 50 countries in a new publicly accessible, open-source database.
The data bank will enable researchers and policymakers to connect education inputs and outcomes with wider social and economic outcomes more easily than ever before.
The leading countries in the cognitive skills category, which comprises the international tests (PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS) in maths, reading and science that students take at Grade 8 and Grade 4, come as no surprise.
The top five — Finland, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan — all score more than one standard deviation above the norm.
Ozden added:
“The Gulf has made extraordinary gains in education in a relatively short time frame. However, governments and learning institutions in the region consistently tell us that they want to create education systems that lead the world. The knowledge acquired from this report will help them to do that. It will give decision makers in the Gulf access to a wealth of information about what makes learning successful on a scale never seen before anywhere in the world”.
Denis McCauley, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s executive editor, business research, said:
“The Learning Curve breaks new ground in terms of data collection and analysis, but there is so much more to do. We hope our study serves as a catalyst for further collaborative efforts by academics, practitioners and policymakers to deepen our knowledge about what contributes to better education performance and outcomes.”

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