Researchers from Macquarie University in Sydney have examined whether the levels of discipline or the amount of funding received affected the overall performance of a school.

The study was co-authored by Associate Professor Chris Baumann along with Hana Krskova and found that discipline overwhelmingly determined educational levels in schools. In comparison, the amount of money spent on schools as a percentage of GDP had a minor affect on academic performance.

“Monetary investment in education is not sufficient to boost educational performance. Discussion on education policy often centres on funding, but this study now establishes that a much more effective ‘tool’ to improve education performance and ultimately the competitiveness of a nation, is to focus on school discipline,” said Baumann.

The study looked at data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD). It combine this data with information from the World Bank on government expenditure as well as from the World Economic Forum (WEF) on competiveness.

“More disciplined students achieve better educational results, and in undisciplined classrooms with distraction combined with a lack of respect for teachers and education means time is wasted rather than spent on learning. The findings in this study support the argument that how schools and classrooms are ‘run’ need to be reconsidered, and perhaps the expectations a society places on its students needs to be increased,” Baumann said.

A better, more cost effective approach to boosting school performance is to improve school discipline. This is effectively cost neutral but effectively increases both performance and competitiveness.

While monetary investment is a central policy tool by governments, the researchers showed it actually has little direct impact on students’ educational performance.

“Teachers need effective tools to discipline students in order to create an atmosphere where students listen well, noise levels are low, teacher waiting time is also low, students work well, and class starts on time.”

Countries with low levels of discipline were encouraged to raise them while those already with high levels of discipline (such as in East Asia) were encouraged to maintain these levels to keep up their excellent levels of academic performance.

“For a country to succeed, and the extent to which that may occur, depends on how talented its people are and what education they choose to pursue – better disciplined students learn more and perform and ultimately contribute to a more competitive workforce and economy,” Baumann said.

The study, School Discipline, Investment, Competitiveness and Mediating Educational Performance, has been published in the International Journal of Educational Management.