Scots are generally proud of the Scottish education system, and with some reason. It is not, however, in a different league compared to England, and we don’t tend to see Scotland coming top of international rankings.
My gut feeling is that Scotland looks too much at England and too little at other countries, such as our Scandinavian neighbours. And from an international/Nordic perspective, the Scottish education system is weird in many respects. For instance:
- It’s weird to start school at 4. Danish kids start their induction year (Primary 0, as they call it) when they’re between 5½ and 6½, and proper school the year after.
- It’s weird that Scottish students start uni before they’re 18 (and this can create problems if they want to study abroad where unis assume students are adults, and it can make it difficult to do a gap year before uni, although this is probably the most normal time to do this in other countries).
- It’s weird that the last year of high school (S6) isn’t obligatory, which means that some students start uni when they’re 16 years old. This also makes it hard to make nice high school graduation ceremonies, because the students leave at different times.
- It’s weird to apply to uni before knowing the exam results (and asking teachers for predicted grades is positively barking mad).
All of the above could be fixed relatively:
- Start school six months later (i.e., at age 5–6 rather than 4½–5½). This could be phased in over three or six years.
- Make S6 obligatory for university admission.
- Create a new school leaving exam that is based on results from S5 and S6.
- Make sure that all exam results are in by the end of June, and have a huge graduation ceremony after that.
- Move the deadline for uni applications till early July.
Some of these changes would make the Scottish education system rather different from England’s, but in an international context it would normalise it.