British schools have failed to improve in recent years and are still lagging behind Asian nations on reading, science and maths, according to a major international study. The UK was 26th out of 65 for maths, 23rd for reading and 21st for science.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said the coalition government's reforms are driven by what happens in countries who performed better than the UK in English, maths and science in the international school league tables published today.
Mr Gove said his radical reforms were inspired by what happens in Singapore, South Korea and Japan, which topped the performance charts. He said the top performing countries, certain common features occur, which he has placed at the heart of the Coalition strategy. They are:
Improving social justice
Providing a more rigorous curriculum
Giving schools greater autonomy
Giving head teachers greater powers to hire and fire
These poor results show the last government failed to secure the improvements in school standards our young people desperately need. Labour poured billions of pounds into schools and ratcheted up exam grades - yet our education system stagnated and we fell behind other nations."
Labour's shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said the poor performance showed the failings of the government's schools policy.
"The PISA report is a big wake-up call. Eastern dominance centres on the importance that these high performing education systems place on the quality and status of the teaching profession as the central lever for driving up standards.
"This report exposes the failings of this Government's schools policy: a policy that has sent unqualified teachers into the classroom and prevented effective collaboration between schools."
Girls in the UK perform worse than boys in maths and are less likely to enjoy the subject, a major international study into education has revealed.
It found that UK boys outperformed girls by 12 points on average in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests.
The gender gap across OECD countries on average is 11 points, with boys doing better in most countries.
Boys also did better than girls in science with a gender gap of 13 points, larger than the OECD average one one point. But girls performed better in reading, scoring 25 points more on average, significantly less than the OECD's average gender gap of 38 points.
However, Andreas Schleicher, special adviser to the OECD's secretary-general, said the gender gap in the UK is considerably better than many other countries.
"In the UK that gender gap is not actually that pronounced. The UK is doing better than many countries in giving students, boys and girls equal opportunities, on balance."
Wales has fallen further behind in a worldwide assessment of pupils' maths, reading and science skills.
Welsh pupils are again behind their counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in all three areas, and are below the global average in those areas.
Results from the so-called PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests, sat by 15-year-old pupils around the world last year, have been published today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Wales is now ranked 43rd out of 68 countries for maths, 41st for reading, and 36th for science - all lower positions than when the tests were last held in 2009.
The Welsh Government has previously targeted the top 20 positions of the influential league tables when the next tests are sat in 2015.
A major study into the educational achievements of teenagers across the world has found that UK students have "failed to improve" since 2009, and remain around average in maths and reading, and slightly above average in science.
The study found that the UK spends more per head on education than the average across OECD countries, at around £59,889 per student between the ages of six and 15.