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UK education performance 'failing to improve'

The UK's performance in maths, reading and science has failed to improve in recent years, leaving UK teens lagging far behind peers in countries such as Sinapore, Korea and Japan, a major international study has found.

The UK's position in the OECD study remains largely unchanged from. Credit: Reuters

Despite the UK spending more than average on education, there has been "no change" in the country's abilities in the three basic subjects, according to the latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study 2012.

The UK placed 26th place for maths, 23rd for reading and 21st for science out of the total 65 countries that took part in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) study last year.

  1. Wales

Wales falls further in global PISA education rankings

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.

Welsh pupils continue to struggle with PISA tests, which aim to assess real-life skills. Credit: PA

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.


How the international school tables work

International school tables are expected to suggest that UK students have fallen behind pupils in Asian countries in reading, science and maths.

This is how the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's tables work:

  • The rankings are based on tests completed by around 500,000 pupils worldwide in 65 different countries.
  • Some 12,638 students took the two-hour tests in 477 secondary schools across the UK, according to The Sunday Times (£).
  • The study focuses on three key areas; reading, science and maths.
  • In 2009, the last time this test was carried out, the UK finished 25th for reading, 16th in science and 28th in maths.

UK students expected to lag behind in school tables

A major international report is expected to show that UK students are lagging far behind their peers in Asian countries in reading, science and maths.

The report focuses on reading, science and maths. Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Global school league tables assessing countries performances in the three areas will be published this morning by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

School systems in South Korea, Japan and Singapore did well in a similar study three years ago, while the UK was an average performer.

Around half a million pupils around the world took the tests, including students from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

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Basic skills 'bound to decline' without 'significant action'

The OECD report on numeracy and literacy in 24 countries said basic skills among young people in England and Ireland were "bound to decline" unless "significant action" is taken.

Although young people in these countries are entering a much more demanding labour market, they are not much better equipped with literacy and numeracy skills than those who are retiring.

The implication for England and Northern Ireland is that the stock of skills available to them is bound to decline over the next decades unless significant action is taken to improve skills proficiency among young people.

– OECD report

OECD: Almost one in four can only manage simple sums

An OECD survey of 9,000 people in 24 countries, has showed that England and Northern Ireland have some of the highest proportions of adults scoring no higher than Level 1 in literacy and numeracy.

  • 24.1% or around 8.5 million people scored at or below Level 1 in numeracy (basic sums), compared with an OECD average of 19%.
  • 16.4% or around 5.8 million people scored the lowest level in literacy (simple texts), compared with an OECE average of 15.5%.

British youth 'falling behind' in literacy and numeracy

A major international study has revealed that the literacy and numeracy skills of 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK are among the lowest in the developed world.

Young people are falling behind in basic skills. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images

In England, young people were 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy in a list of 24 countries, falling far behind countries like Japan, Finland and the Netherlands in the basics.

Those in Northern Ireland did slightly better.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warned that despite facing a tougher labour market, the UK's young people have skills similar to those who are retiring from the workplace.

Young unemployed 'out of work for over two years'

Young people in the UK spend nearly two-and-a-half years out of work, one of the highest rates amongst developed countries, according to new OECD research.

The organisation’s Andreas Schleicher said many young people have “given up, more or less” and warned that the "biggest challenge" to the UK was to help those youngsters who do not have decent qualifications.

The figures, for 2011, show that people in the UK aged 15 to 29 expected to spend 2.3 years on average either unemployed or out of the labour force entirely – higher than the Netherlands (1.1 years), Iceland (1.2 years), Norway (1.3 years), Australia (1.7 years) and Germany (1.7 years).

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