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OECD Study puts England at bottom for Maths and Literacy

(252 Posts)
missinglalaland Tue 08-Oct-13 13:19:51

A major study by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development puts England's 16 to 24 year olds at 22nd for Literacy and 21st for Numeracy out of 24 developed countries. Ouch!

What can we do to fix this? More money? Less permissiveness? Sorting by ability? Different teacher training? Longer school years? Different methods?

mathanxiety Thu 05-Dec-13 18:03:41

It goes deeper than being unable to tackle the homework with your children, and it starts going downhill well before school age. Seeking only to get the kids off your back is far closer to a description of the problem.

Summerworld Thu 05-Dec-13 16:44:49

CliffTopCafe: Everything is child led and they want the children to be enthusiastic about learning so teachers read books like Captain Underpants to make them laugh etc. Personally I'd prefer a more academic focus at school. Why not Schofield and Sims Mental Maths workbooks for all (for example)
or Bond books - an excellent systematic course both for English and Maths. Or is it too high-brow for a state primary?

MillyMollyMama Thu 05-Dec-13 16:43:27

Can I just say that there are very many parents who are so poorly educated themselves they CANNOT help their children!!! Very many parents used to say "X can read better than I can". X was in primary school. There is too little understanding of the real problems we face. I was Chairman of Governors in a school where children repeatedly lost their reading books at home. Did some parents ever listen to their child read? Doubtful. It is not the middle class or aspiring parent who has children in the lowest 20%! (slight sweeping assumption here).

When I worked for a Local Authority we did have nurture groups run by experienced and specialist teachers. The children were referred by the schools via our SEN peripatetic teaching staff. We had different locations for each specialism. We also did a reading recovery programme with very good results. We spent £30,000 on books for this. No doubt we should have done maths as well! It was expensive to run, but we were very good. No-one really learns from good practice in this country. Too much political interference and not enough money into the right schemes. We also had early attendance at nursery for the most needy.

Summerworld Thu 05-Dec-13 16:17:16

*AutumnLeavesaGoGo Fri 11-Oct-13 11:22:10
Then the idea of doing maths and english at home is looked down on by so many parent's as being mean or even detrimental (hothousing) it's no surprise we are doing poorly overall.*
This is the one thing I really do not get being a foreigner. Surely, life is not a bed of roses and the earlier this dawns upon the individual the better? Where I come from, doing extra work at home with your children is seen as responsible and involved parenting, encouraged by the society. Leaving your children "to enjoy their childhood" and laze about will raise a few eyebrows. This would rather be considered a neglectful, lazy and irresponsible parenting. Just a different a cultural attitude.

Summerworld Thu 05-Dec-13 15:48:53

Kenlee: My firm belief is that if you are there no matter how thick you are your child will do well at school. Spending that one hour at a table doing the homework together.
This is true of a middle-class educated parent, maybe for a working class aspirational parent. But, sadly, it is not true of a disadvantaged family. If disadvantaged parents do not work, they do not necessarily spend more time with their children, let alone spend productive time with their children/ educate them. What is more likely to happen, the telly/Xbox will get switched on to get the kids off their back, not sit down with them at a table doing homework. I know this a a sweeping generalisation, but this is exactly what I have seen of disadvantaged families. They are not interested in education, they see no value in it. They wouldn't know what to do with it. So need need to waste your life on it.

duchesse Thu 05-Dec-13 15:08:33

I actually DO think that the lower achievers should be given extra help, but I feel they should get far earlier and in far greater quantities than is currently the case. I really like the "nurture groups" model because they achieve the most concentrated results to the benefit of all the children (including the ones no longer being disrupted on a daily basis by children not able to cope with the curriculum). They would also work with children how arrive without a word of English. Not sure how widespread they are in the UK though. And they are expensive because they the staff/pupil ratio is so much lower.

mathanxiety Thu 05-Dec-13 14:41:23

I agree with Milly. The lowest 20% (perhaps as low as one third, are so far behind the rest by the time they get to school at age 4 they never catch up, and it's partly because of the culture that exists in their homes. By that I mean the level of parenting skills more then the attitude to school or the availability of educational resources at home.

The lowest 20-33% have been identified time and time again in analyses by the department of Education - the PISA result is not news here.

Intervention needs to start well before school entrance.

MillyMollyMama Thu 05-Dec-13 13:31:37

Talkinpeace. I do agree. Government is far too involved in micro managing education and Gove is making matters worse. Makes me wonder why any top class graduate with the right skills would consider being a teacher.

Timetoask. I was referring to the 20% of lower achievers in the UK identified in these particular tests (look at the tables published yesterday and not just the headlines) which is clearly a greater number of lower performers than many other countries. Therefore one can argue that Mumsnetters are wrong in that it is not the middle or the better children who are falling significantly behind, although the middle group are not reaching Asian levels. Have a look at the analysis in The Times yesterday. If we had 5% not making the grade, as in other comparable countries, we would be much higher in the tables. Our best achievers are on a par with elsewhere. Don't forget people on this forum have personal stories but are generally unaware of the bigger picture. The USA and Russia have more lower achievers.

The was also an informative article on Asian maths language which makes maths easier to learn from an early age than in this country using our maths language. This is not necessarily an explanation, but it is part of the overall picture. It is nonetheless true that if we can significantly reduce the 20% we would be looking a great deal better. It is also widely recognised that if children arrive in school already significantly behind, this gap is so difficult to close. Only the very best teaching gives us a chance and parents really must start valuing education and teachers as they do abroad.

Timetoask Wed 04-Dec-13 17:32:05

milly "We do need to ensure the lowest achievers are given special attention as early as possible."

I have read countless threads on mumsnet about how the lower achievers and the higher achievers get all the help. It's the one in the middle that are not pushed forward.

Talkinpeace Wed 04-Dec-13 17:09:43

Teachers are considered top professionals in other countries but have top academic qualifications too. We need the best people to teach. We need to stop making excuses for poor learning

But here in the UK we have an Education secretary who is
- against teaching qualifications
- thinks that parents know better than teaching professionals what should be on the curriculum
- changes the goalposts on pupils after they have started their courses (why bother on a piece of work as Gove might tear it up after you've done it?)
- constantly tells pupils that grade improvements are due to them dumbing down
- publicly castigates their teachers as unprofessional

Maybe a bit of respect for teaching from the politicians would help?

MillyMollyMama Wed 04-Dec-13 13:00:08

I think we have a problem with the lowest achieving 20% of children and this is why we do not improve in the tables. Other countries have less of a "bottom set" which may only be 5% not achieving the modest targets set. Therefore we have to be much more creative in how these underachieving children are taught. Also, they will not be plumbers, electricians or hairdressers because they will probably not get on the relevant courses, especially if some reasonable standard of maths is required. We do need to ensure the lowest achievers are given special attention as early as possible. Not exactly Korean style, but we need to stop making excuses for under achievement. We know many children are already behind when they attend reception class. We know parenting is poor for many of these children. Grammar schools, languages at A level will not matter one jot for the underachievers.

I agree these tests are very narrow and skewed towards other educational styles which we do not want to copy, but we need to look at why we have a group of society who never improve. Teachers are considered top professionals in other countries but have top academic qualifications too. We need the best people to teach. We need to stop making excuses for poor learning and we need to ensure the lower achievers spend a lot more time having effective nursery and teaching time. We might then have a chance of moving up the tables. All the political infighting and free schools will not help at all.

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 12:23:28

Isn't also just good for your brain and self-development to learn a language? Good to do anything that you find hard and stretches you. Even if you never use it. I have never used O level German for example or Latin but learning languages is a way of developing yourself IMO.

jonicomelately Wed 04-Dec-13 11:15:15

On the point of hairdressers, if you travel abroad, especially on a cruise, you'll find loads of hairdressers who can speak several languages. It's a travesty our education system doesn't afford everyone the same opportunity.

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 10:29:42

Duchesse's post about motivation and hard work is the key.

monet3 Wed 04-Dec-13 09:57:33

talkinpeace; Where in the PISA test does it test English writing and creative composition, history, geography, languages, art, music, drama ?

Nowhere I was answering the question in the OP.

And please tell me why its essential for plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, hairdressers, bricklayers and bin men to be qualified to A level in a foreign language?

Are you for real ? Take Trevor Sorbie MBE for example he has traveled all over the world as a hairdresser do you honestly think it would not have benefited him to learn a language at school?

mathanxiety Wed 04-Dec-13 03:26:08

You think that the non academic should be forced to do a Language A level even if they do not want to. They could be into sports, arts, music, driving, building or a multitude of other non academic pursuits. What purpose is served by forcing them to sit in a classroom?

At some point, someone older and wiser needs to assess future needs of the economy and realise that the days of the horse drawn plough, etc., are over. Or the individual man who can drive making a living and supporting a family without recourse to welfare. At some point even the least inclined to sit in a classroom need to take instruction from someone who actually knows how to 'build' or drive or do some other non-academic pursuit. (Art and Music are absolutely not non-academic pursuits).

In Ireland educational policymakers established Regional Technical Colleges back in the late 60s and early 70s. They are now Institutes of Technology. They provide a huge number of the sort of not-traditionally-academic courses that will actually help an economy grow, for the sort of students who used to emigrate in droves to provide unskilled labour in Britain and America, hard work for little or no pay -- driving, and building. The sort of glorious jobs-with-a-future you think British youngsters should aspire to, in other words.

In order to get into an Institute of Technology, you do your Leaving Cert and you pass the necessary subjects - maths, science, language, English, Irish, and whatever other subjects you may have chosen in your Leaving Cert curriculum. The purpose that is served by sitting in a classroom is to gain entrance to a college where you will earn a diploma or a degree in some useful area, a qualification that an employer can check. In the space of one generation the existence of the techs has opened up a new world of opportunity to parts of Irish society that previously did not see much use in school.

Here are the hopes of the Irish Steering Committee on Technical Education, also called The Mulcahy Report (1967) for the regional techs:

'we believe that the long-term function of the colleges will be to educate for trade and industry over a broad spectrum of occupations ranging from craft to professional, notably in engineering and science but also in commercial, linguistic and other specialties. They will, however, be more immediately concerned with providing courses aimed at filling gaps in the industrial manpower structure, particularly in the technician area...

...we do not foresee any final fixed pattern of courses in the colleges. If they are to make their most effective contribution to the needs of society and the economy, they must be capable of continuing adaptation to social, economic and technological changes. Initiative at local and national levels will largely determine how far this vital characteristic is developed. We are concerned that the progress of these colleges should not be deterred by any artificial limitation of either the scope or the level of their educational achievements'

This was a tremendously bold ambition, given that Ireland was a desperately poor country in 1967, and had not even joined the EEC at that point.

The same could happen in Britain, but classism and complacency get in the way.

Bear in mind that nearly one in 5 french kids never finish the French Baccalaureate

And France is going down the toilet faster than you can say 'pardon'.

mathanxiety Wed 04-Dec-13 03:02:50

If my mother's family, the eight children of a small farmer who left school at 14, had had that shortsighted notion of what sort of education would be appropriate for them not a single one would have got a PhD. None of them would be in the tax bracket they ended up in. None of them would have sent their own children to university. In all likelihood, none of them would have stayed in Ireland. They would have had to pack their bags and head for Australia, where almost the whole of the previous generation had to go.

mathanxiety Wed 04-Dec-13 02:57:59

And please tell me why its essential for plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, hairdressers, bricklayers and bin men to be qualified to A level in a foreign language?

So that they will be able to be plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, hairdressers, bricklayers and bin men in another country should the fancy take them? So they will not feel confined to Britain or English speaking countries and can set themselves up in business elsewhere in the EU, where they are entitled to work, with very little red tape preventing them from setting up shop, no visa applications, no waiting for word from an embassy? So they can take advantage of the strong economy in Germany rather than sitting around at home?

I have a question for you, Talkinpeace -- why should education be confined only to what is deemed essential by someone who thinks they know what the lower orders need and what is appropriate for their station? Education should provide opportunity and should anticipate needs beyond what is immediately obvious. Above all, it should provide someone with choice, and with versatility as their lives go on. It's a scandal that an average British education still does not include a modern European language to A level when Britain joined the EEC back in 1973.

Maybe the plumbers, etc., would like to become language teachers?

jonicomelately Tue 03-Dec-13 23:59:23

I agree duchesse. Children from different family backgrounds could achieve the same academic standards if given the opportunity. Funny how the dustmen, plumbers, hairdressers that Talkinpeace cites usually come from working-class backgrounds. I could give you a hundred examples of people who are doing jobs they are too bright to do and vice versa. It's a shame some people on here are happy to keep that status quo.

duchesse Tue 03-Dec-13 23:54:22

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that in the UK school system there are hordes of children who are pathologically non-compliant. And that is what holds them back academically- not class, not ability, not teaching. And if compliance makes you more successful in the school system (and really, with 30 per class and stretched resources, why wouldn't it?) then I would imagine that many Asian children will have the upper edge. I agree however with Kenlee's friend far down this thread that UK children are potentially more successful long-term. I'm not sure that compliance (also a prequisite in the French system- I agree with Elibean's mum's view) is a good long-term life skill.

FWIW I have taught some extremely motivated children of very low ability (always a delight to teach as you can celebrate every progress); very motivated children with car-crash backgrounds -delightful family I'm thinking of with 9 children, disabled mum disabled by an inherited connective tissue disorder that had left her partially sighted, illiterate dad and multiple siblings with same inherited disorder- who I loved teaching as well; and reams of horrible children from all sorts of backgrounds with attitude problems and parents excusing their behaviour as "personality clashes"- these children are very rarely a delight to teach.

duchesse Tue 03-Dec-13 23:32:52

This working class/ middle class thing is a complete red herring imo. You can get very academic children in very non-academic families and vice-versa. So everyone should be educated to their strengths. Unfortunately many children in this country are educated to lowest common denominator- they have been brought up to expect everything to be easy and accessible with little mental effort.

If you saw the number of song/dance routines teachers are expected to put on to "engage" the "kids" on a daily basis, several times a day, your eyes would drop out of your head. Pupils are required to make minimum effort and learning is somehow to drip into their heads. There are no adequate means in many schools to exact a decent standard of work from them.

This PISA result does not surprise me in the slightest- what many of our pupils lack is not intelligence, not parental involvement, not resources at home, but motivation. They simply can't see the point of it (ofsted and SMT will say that's because the teachers are "engaging" enough) and don't want to make any effort.

I have seen entire classes of year 11 pupils apparently unable to add two 2 figure numbers together, which is woeful. I recently found I'd kept the admission lists for a school I taught at in a year I was teaching every single class of year 7s. So I had access to all their reading ages. And (bearing in mind they were all 11), more than 2/3 of them had a reading age below 9. A significant number more had RA of 9-12. Maybe 1 or 2 per class of 26 had a reading above their actual age (often 15.3 which as high I think as that scale goes).

We are not talking about a problem area- this was a school in a leafy Surrey town. There is no need whatsoever for children to be arriving at secondary with a reading age of 7. They cannot access the curriculum in any meaningful way.

I really feel that a good solution would be "nurture" groups for children with problems, identified during year 2 as being behind, and for them to have an enriched curriculum in smaller groups. You can definitely tell by 7 whether they are struggling and they're still young enough to catch up by 11. But it all takes money, and quite a lot of it.

jonicomelately Tue 03-Dec-13 22:56:43

Bollocks. They are the minority. Most children who do not have special educational needs should as I have said attain a decent academic standard. Why would anyone argue against that? At my comprehensive school in the middle of a economically deprived area there were kids who were achieving very low standards of education. The thing is though these kids were bright. They were capable of achieving so much more thAn they did but because Thatcher had no interest in the w-c being educated and becoming doctors and lawyers and teachers nobody pushed us. Yes, not even our teachers. Boys became mechanics, girls became hairdressers. Only a few of us thought fuck that and went to University. These children are no less clever than yoursTalkinpeace but the cards are not stacked in their favour.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 22:47:53

my view most children would be capable of achieving a decent academic standard in most subjects INCLUDING mfl if the teaching is of a good standard.
your view does not accord with the facts

there are kids at DCs school who in year 11 are nearly at KS2 level 5 English and Maths and its NOTHING to do with weakness of teaching.

jonicomelately Tue 03-Dec-13 22:45:28

'Get back to the point'.

Do you realise how pompous your posts are Talkinpeace?

How do you define non-academic? In my view most children would be capable of achieving a decent academic standard in most subjects INCLUDING mfl if the teaching is of a good standard. Don't write off working-class kids. Social mobility is on a downward spiral in
the UK because that pleases the middle classes and it is a fucking scandal. Famously a girl in the Rhonda Valley was recently advised by her careers teacher not to pursue a career as a barrister. That makes my blood boil.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 22:38:59

get back to the point.

You think that the non academic should be forced to do a Language A level even if they do not want to
they could be into sports, arts, music, driving, building
or a multitude of other non academic pursuits.
What purpose is served by forcing them to sit in a classroom?

Bear in mind that nearly one in 5 french kids never finish the French Baccalaureate

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