NESC publishes Council Report 129: Quality and Standards in Human Services in Ireland:The School System and NESC Secretariat Paper (02): Understanding PISA and What it tells us about Educational Standards in Ireland

02 October 2012

October 2nd, 2012

Dublin, Ireland


Achieving Quality in the School System

In its report published today on Quality and Standards in Human Services in Ireland: The School System, the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) argues that while there have been many developments in schools including school evaluation, curriculum development, student welfare and teacher accreditation, there still remains some way to go in building a system of quality and continuous improvement within schools in Ireland.

Edna Jordan, the main author of the report, says that ‘there is a need for a national data and standards framework which provides a sound basis for judgement about quality and improvement’. She goes on to say that ‘this should be underpinned by a culture of evidence-based practice within schools to promote a greater culture of reflective practice’.  The report concludes that both of these are required to support improved quality and accountability in the school system.

Reviewing PISA Results for Ireland

In a complementary Secretariat paper Understanding PISA and what it tells us about Educational Standards in Ireland also published today, NESC reviews the performance of Irish students in the PISA assessment (an international assessment of reading, mathematics and science literacy of 15 year olds carried out by the OECD. The paper states that while the PISA data for Ireland shows a decline in relative student performance, these data need to be interpreted with care and that, on its own, the PISA assessment is not a comprehensive measure of educational standards.

The report author, Dr. Claire Finn, says that ‘although PISA is a useful tool with which to compare and consider relative student performance, overly focusing on rankings can lead to a simplistic interpretation of the results’.

The report highlights the lack of alternative data and related analysis with which to consider the quality of the Irish education system and concludes that Ireland needs to develop a more systematic evidence-based approach to educational evaluation.

Further NESC Reports on Quality and Standards in Human Services

NESC is publishing a series of reports on quality and standards in human services.  In January 2012 it published an overview of concepts and practices, which examined international and Irish evidence of approaches to regulation and standards-setting in human services, along with the promotion of good practice.  On 18th September 2012, NESC published two reports: one on Residential Care for Older People; and one on Policing and the Search for Continuous Improvement.  Over the coming weeks NESC will publish further reports on quality and standards: on home care for older people; on end-of-life care in hospitals; on disability services; and then a synthesis report which draws the findings of all the work together.  

Note to Editors:

The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) was established in 1973.  Its function is to analyse and report to the Taoiseach on strategic issues relating to the efficient development of the economy, the achievement of social justice and the development of a strategic framework for the conduct of relations and the negotiation of agreements between the government and the social partners.  The Council is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach.  It comprises representatives of trade unions, employer bodies, farm organisations, community and voluntary organisations, environmental organisations, key Government departments and has eight independent experts.

Download Documents

To download the reports, visit the publications section of the website

For further information contact    

Helen Johnston
Senior Social Policy Analyst

Mobile:     087 4191780
Email:      helen.johnston@nesc.ie