by Sir Peter Birkett | June 2021 | Education


In order to gain a detailed understanding of how and why some schools seem to achieve consistently better results than others, we need to inspect the belief systems and strategies employed by top-performing schools across the globe.

However, it is also important to consider the context of culture when implementing changes to a national school system. For example, Finland has a culture of absolute trust within its education system, which does not exist in most other countries. Teaching strategies which work in east asian countries may not be so successful in other parts of the world.

To employ the rigid and extremely high expectations used extensively in South Korea or Singapore, for example, may deflate the confidence of children growing up in more relaxed Western societies. If the standards set by schools are not followed through in the home or work environment, then, inevitably, there will be a conflict which will weaken that chain of values.

In countries where competition and excellence are valued and encouraged by parents, employers and schools alike, then there is consistency of belief which is more likely to result in higher achievements overall.

Finland uses very different teaching methods to South Korea, but still achieves top results in education because its national philosophy is accepted throughout all homes and educational establishments, from cradle to grave. There is no conflict to act as a weak link in that chain of values.

I believe there are 5 key principles that help create great organisations as follows:

  1. Create positive thinking
  2. Identify your critical essentials
  3. Identify your critical non essentials
  4. Enjoyment – working and learning should be fun
  5. No compromise on standards – enjoy the moment and raise the bar

With these in mind, what are the main ingredients in creating a successful school?

Educational Leaders

Educational Leaders need to convince their citizens that investing in the future of their children through education is vital to the success of their country. To achieve this, attracting highly qualified and motivated teachers is key.

In top-performing countries it is a unanimous decision to value teaching as a career.  This is achieved in several ways:

  1. a) Ensuring continuous training systems are in place to improve performance.
  2. b) Ensuring pay reflects experience, along with honours and bonuses to demonstrate Value Recognition of a teacher’s input and loyalty.
  3. c) Ensuring there is equality between staff where knowledge and experience are shared.
  4. d) Encouragement to grow personally and professionally. Happy, fulfilled staff create happy, fulfilled students which benefit the whole school and produce well-rounded, well-educated citizens for the future.

Creating An Educational System

Creating an Educational System which works to personalise education rather than segregate it into Top or Bottom Tiers. For low-achievers, praise, patience and coaching will yield tremendous results, without having to drop standards to meet a student’s unmotivated mindset.

Maintaining high expectations so that students must strive to reach those expectations, will challenge and develop them, giving a sense of purpose and achievement, as well as training their developing brains to work to their maximum capacity.

It is a priority for all high-achieving schools that development of holistic practices which enhance the well-being of teachers and students alike are strictly maintained, and that standards are never compromised.

Goals Should Be Ambitious

Goals should be ambitious with clear standards and expectations. A belief that every student is capable of learning and meeting high standards is vital to success. Consistent affirmative messages such as Results and Excellence DO Matter instil a sense of importance within students which they can absorb and use throughout the rest of their lives.

In all countries, east or west, who are top of the educational league tables, Education is valued above all else. Spending on all aspects of education is never questioned and children are shown daily how learning can impact their lives and endow them with the future of their dreams.

Hope springs from Incentive, and incentives provide meaning and purpose to each young mind. Success follows such a belief system, but this system needs constant reinforcement to ensure the necessary development, investment and endorsement, which is also fully supported throughout society as a whole.