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Dublin: 5°C Wednesday 21 April 2021

'Streaming' in schools is bad for students - ESRI

Grouping students according to their ability leads to a fall in average student performance, according to new research from the Economic and Social Research Institute.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

GROUPING STUDENTS TOGETHER by ability is bad for their education, a new study from the ESRI has found.

In a major review of how the quality of secondary education could be improved, researchers found that streaming harms educational outcomes.

Students assigned to lower ability classes tend to do much worse under streaming while those in higher ability classes do not make the corresponding gains – leading to a fall in average student performance.

The study also found that student-teacher interaction has a crucial effect on how students perform.

The research also revealed that teaching methods matter – and that best results are achieved by student-centred active approaches.

Interaction and discussion are better for students rather than passively listening to instruction, the study found.

Dr Emer Smyth, one of the two authors of the report, said that teacher training and continuous professional development for teachers should be a priority for policymakers:

In the current climate, it is important that schools know they can make a crucial difference to the educational development of their students by moving away from rigid ability grouping, by promoting a positive school climate, and by making the classroom an engaging place for young people.

The review looked at almost 100 studies worldwide as well as available Irish evidence to determine how the quality of second-level education could be improved in the face of the funding challenges Ireland currently faces.

The study, Improving Second-Level Education: Using Evidence for Policy Development, was conducted by Dr. Emer Smyth and Dr. Selina McCoy of the ESRI.

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