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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?

stringornothing Tue 08-Oct-13 13:30:54

Bear in mind that that cohort developed their essential skills 10-15 years ago, which is ten to fifteen educational revamps ago. Reasoning that because a lot of our 24 year olds are sub literate we should change the methods used to teach today's five year olds would be very risky. You need to work out how that cohort were failed (assuming the data is reliable of course, I haven't checked, and these things are frequently dodgy), and then see if any changes could prevent that have not already been made.

missinglalaland Tue 08-Oct-13 13:51:11

The 24 year olds would have, but not the 16 year olds.

Here is a link to the BBC coverage of the story.

Of course the study could be wrong, but the OECD is generally considered a respectable outfit. It's not a "think tank" with a particular, political axe to grind.

TessDurbeyfield Tue 08-Oct-13 14:01:26

Thanks for starting this thread. On the face of it it looks like a serious study and potentially very worrying for the UK and for children/young people. I work in a University and anecdotally it seems that in the last 5 years or so we have had a significant increase in the numbers of very strong international applicants (though that may only be my experience). The level of international competition for business and jobs is only getting stronger and I worry that we are not preparing our children to succeed in that environment. That's worrying for them and for the country.

Not sure on the solution though...

Erebus Tue 08-Oct-13 15:24:51

I would dearly love to see the actual test they presumable all sat!

I am tbh always a bit suspicious of this sort of thing. It's not that I think 'Our education system is great, how dare anyone disrespect that?' as much as other tests that show where, for instance, the French are so far ahead than the English as measured by a given test- but then of course we discover that an awful lot of French, let alone us, feel the French education system is prescriptive, mired in outdated methodologies, highly politicised, and based on rote learning, not understanding, and teaches 'answers' but not 'problem solving', i.e. maybe not fit-for-purpose in the modern world- but they'd do a fair bit better than a Brit is a native language spelling test! etc.

If one were being pedantic, one might ask 'When can we see the great flowering of the Finnish nation? Or the Estonian one?' This is relevant, this measuring of such results against national achievement on the world stage seeing as it's seized upon to berate the English for being increasingly unable to 'compete' - Though we might note that such countries have much more homogeneous populations than our own, as does South Korea and Japan. Maybe research might be done on the overall educational achievement of a given country based on the ethnic diversity of the cohort? And ask whether the English stats might be a lot better if the test group were all plucked from a predominantly Indian area?

I am not in the slightest bit surprised that such 'findings' are leapt upon to demonstrate how shit we British are. Self-deprecation is an area we excel in!

riddlesgalore Tue 08-Oct-13 16:27:02

Does this report by the independent OECD justify Gove's criticisms of the English education system and give support to government reforms of the curriculum, courses, exams and schools etc.

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 16:38:05

I think Gove has some valid criticisms. I just think he's an arse that doesn't know how to go about making things better. But then I've seen first hand in a school that bullying from the leadership makes things worse, in general, rather than better and I think the man is a bully (aswell as an arse... grin).

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 16:44:01

I should also add, if the OECD thinks it's so incredibly brilliant at working out peoples' "REAL" skills, then perhaps it should go setting everyone's exam papers and practical assessments, so as to avoid wasting the time of all these people who are good at passing worthless tests for pointless qualifications. Or perhaps it wasn't actually testing everything you need to know to decide whether a country is going to be economically successful?...

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 16:46:08

And of course, if you COULD weigh and measure your way to economic success, wouldn't life be EASY??? In reality, there seems to be a growing tendency to ignore vital elements that cannot be weighed and measured easily.

riddlesgalore Tue 08-Oct-13 16:52:42

rabbitstew, shouldn't we learn something from this report rather than reach for a shotgun. Maybe we ignore it at our peril and to the detriment of the young of this country and their future employment. It's a small world now!!

Retropear Tue 08-Oct-13 17:10:06

Perhaps continual ignoring of the writing on the wall has got us into this mess.

A huge wake up call.

Kid of worried if all youngsters are going to be tarred with this brush ie be penalised in foreign uni applations.

Retropear Tue 08-Oct-13 17:10:54

Amazed this thread isn't discussion of the day.


Retropear Tue 08-Oct-13 17:11:45


apologies<cooking tea>

BoneyBackJefferson Tue 08-Oct-13 17:15:16


In order to learn anything from the report, we would have to know everything about it.

jonicomelately Tue 08-Oct-13 17:18:47

This doesn't surprise me at all. It's worrying that people don't appear to think it's a problem!

CecilyP Tue 08-Oct-13 17:25:03

Exactly, Boney, but I doubt if the totality of what respondents were asked to do will ever be in the public domain. Neither can we know much about the level of motivation of individual respondents.

I am smarting a little that the BBC seem to be horrified that the 16-24 year olds did no better than the 55-65 year olds. As I am in the latter category myself, I would expect this age group to do better, as I would expect to do better than my 16-year-old self. We are not exactly in our dotage!

riddlesgalore Tue 08-Oct-13 17:33:19

jonicomelately , maybe we have been brain washed by vested interests over the years into believing that we have the best education system and it's shock to find out how badly it's been letting down such a large percentage of our young. Even though Gove has drummed on non stop about what he sees as failures of the system maybe because educationalists and unions have been so vocal in opposition to his ideas we have listened to them rather than the critics.

Maybe we all share responsibility for the present state.

riddlesgalore Tue 08-Oct-13 17:41:22

cecily, I think the idea is that children should be better educated than their grandparents. England appears to be the only country where this isn't so it seems.

The OECD does many reports, they are respected for their surveys and analysis. Their reports and analysis are used by all political parties, unions and organisations as evidence in debates, why should this report be different. I would be interested to hear.

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 17:45:46

riddlesgalore - what makes you think I believe there is nothing to learn from the report? What makes me angry is the media reporting on it. There is no way you can say ANYTHING intelligent about the reporting of this, because all that has been reported are crass, basic statistics. Maybe it's because we're all so poorly educated that so many people seem to think they can conclude much from the media reports on it?...

stringornothing Tue 08-Oct-13 17:47:06

I'm less than shocked that, say, South Korea has improved its education system massively in the last 40 years whilst we and the US haven't.

Robert Peston's rather more thorough investigation in the BBC site here points out that our literacy is only minimally behind the rest of the pack, not a huge deal unless you think that we have a god given right to be the best in the world. Our numeracy however is genuinely substandard, and I hope that the debate focusses more on that rather than regashing the phonics wars.

MooncupGoddess Tue 08-Oct-13 17:48:38

The point is I guess than 40 or 50 years ago a lot of people left school at 14 and went straight into manual labour. Now everyone is supposed to stay in education until at least 16 and jobs are more likely to be service sector, so one would expect standards to have improved on average.

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 17:53:25

We could, of course, conclude that we should stop sucking up to the US so much, since clearly its end is nigh. Would that make you happy?

OddBoots Tue 08-Oct-13 17:53:44

If there is a valid and fair test which compares the same age group across all nations and it says we are behind then that's worrying.

Comparing age groups however is highly flawed. There will be many people in the 55-65 age range with degrees and post-grad qualifications as well as lots of experience gained over the years, are we really expecting new school leavers to have the same skill level? In the UK we have both formally and informally very good access to lifelong learning, this shouldn't be used as a stick to beat youngsters with.

meditrina Tue 08-Oct-13 17:57:23

They're not testing adults now, are they?

This study has been going for decades, and I thought they meant the scores those now 55-65 scored then they were the same age as the cohort that's just been announced.

MooncupGoddess Tue 08-Oct-13 18:02:21

Yes, they are testing today's adults across the age ranges.

Partly the study is skewed by different rates of growth/change in the different countries; e.g. 50 years ago South Korea was really, really poor, and presumably educational standards were correspondingly weak. So it's no surprise the young people in their now very successful and education-focused economy have better skills than those who grew up in the 1960s.

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