SCOTTISH pupils have been praised by a leading international organisation for their commitment to tolerance and civic mindedness.

The observation was made in a report by the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) on the country's Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).

It was introduced in 2011 with the aim being to develop children throughout their period in education - from nursery right through to secondary - so that they emerge as successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and can contribute effectively.

The study was commissioned by the Scottish government last year and was expected to be published before last month’s Holyrood election but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Highlighting a success of the curriculum's implementation, the OECD said: "New evidence from PISA 2018 showed Scots students were among the top performers in central 21st century abilities, incl their capacity to engage with people from different cultures, and to act for collective well-being and sustainable development."

The report went onto say that Scotland ranked "among the top-performing countries in global competence" where pupils examine local, global and intercultural issues to understand and appreciate the perspectives and world views of others and engage "in open, appropriate and effective interactions with people from different cultures" for the common good.

"Scotland ranked among the top-performing countries in global competence," it said.

"Scotland was the fourth top-performing country, behind Singapore, Canada, and Hong Kong (China), with mean performance scores more than 50 points above the overall average.... At Level 5, the highest level of proficiency in global competence, students can analyse and understand multiple perspectives. 

"They can examine and evaluate large amounts of information without much support provided in the unit’s scenario. Students can effectively explain situations that require complex thinking and extrapolation and can build models of the situation described in the stimulus."

The report also found that Scottish students’ socio-economic status has a relatively small impact on their performance compared to other OECD countries and economies. 

It said: "The extent of socio-economic disparities in academic performance indicates whether an education system helps promote equality of opportunities. Figure 1.3 shows that in Scotland, students’ socio-economic status had relatively little impact on their reading performance than other OECD countries."

However, the report also highlighted concerns including over higher levels of fear of failure and lower life satisfaction than pupils in other countries.

It said: "Students in Scotland report slightly lower life satisfaction than the OECD average and more prevalent fear of failure than average. 

"The sense of belonging to one’s school is slightly less strong in Scotland than on average across OECD countries and economies  On a final note, students in Scotland display a growth mindset more often than on average across OECD countries and economies". 

The OECD said CfE, which covers youngsters from the age of three right up to 18 was "innovative for Scotland and visionary for the international community" when it was developed in the early 2000s.

It added: "Almost 20 years later, CfE is still remarkably relevant to Scotland's aspirations for a high-quality, future-oriented education for all its children and young people."

But it said the exams set-up "seems to deviate from CfE's broader curriculum philosophy and aims" noting that pupils in S4 to S6 "reported an emphasis on rote learning and memorisation, which they described as 'boring'".

It suggested alternative approaches to more traditional exams could see schools adopt an approach based more on assessing a portfolio of work, or with "more emphasis on flexible, formative and continuous assessment components than is currently the case".

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the Scottish Government accepted in full all 12 recommendations made by the OECD in their report including the advice to move the body in charge of exams (the Scottish Qualifications Authority SQA) into the organisation in charge of the curriculum.

She stated: "The OECD report is crystal clear - Curriculum for Excellence is the right approach for Scotland.

"In fact, despite all the criticism here at home, the OECD tells us it is viewed internationally as an inspiring example of curriculum practice.

"However, 10 years on from CfE being introduced, it is right and proper that we review how it is being implemented."

She continued: "We will replace the SQA. We will talk to young people, parents and teachers to build a system that works in line with CfE - exactly as the OECD recommends.

"Responsibility for inspection will no longer sit with Education Scotland and we will look at what further reform of the agency's functions is required."

She said: "What comes next is a period of change. But it is change in order to improve, to achieve more and to deliver for Scotland's pupils. Our commitment is to do exactly that and we will work with everyone and anyone willing to help to make that a reality."

Tory education spokesman Oliver Mundell claimed the SNP had "created a system lacking structure, vision, accountability, and data".

He hit out: "This damning OECD report exposes how badly the SNP Government have failed Scotland's schools.

"It outlines in great detail how Curriculum for Excellence is bogged down in bureaucracy and beset by fundamental issues, especially in the senior phase."

Labour education spokesman, Michael Marra, said: "Today's report has made it clear that Scotland's education system is in urgent need of reform and resources.

"It is welcome that the SQA is to be scrapped and replaced by a new body. It has become increasingly clear that the organisation stood as a barrier to realising the full potential of Curriculum for Excellence."

Scottish Greens education spokesman, Ross Greer, said: "As we already knew, the principles of Curriculum for Excellence are sound, but it is near impossible for teachers to deliver in S4-6, because they are stuck teaching to a century-old assessment system instead.

"It's a failure of government that the exams system was left largely untouched when the new curriculum was introduced a decade ago. As a result, completely unnecessary barriers have been put in the way of hundreds of thousands of pupils."

SQA chief executive, Fiona Robertson, said: "While our focus right now is on supporting our young people to get the qualifications they deserve this year, I welcome the OECD findings and today's announcement of a new specialist agency with responsibility for both curriculum and assessment.

"This is an opportunity for significant change that will meet the future needs of our learners, our society and our economy, and which has the support of all."

She said the SQA would "make a full and positive contribution to the process that lies ahead" and added that "whatever outcome eventually emerges, it is critical that we all commit to maintaining the high standards that have long been the hallmark of Scotland's qualifications".

Robertson added: "In the meantime, we will continue our work to deliver this year's National Qualifications in exceptional and challenging circumstances."