The slippery skills slope threatening the UK

A global survey by the OECD has found young people in England are less skilled than their grandparents.

by Gabriella Griffith
Last Updated: 08 Nov 2013
The future strength of England and Northern Ireland’s economies are  under threat, reckons the OECD, which published a survey this morning showing our younger generations are less skilled than their older colleagues – something rare among our global peers.
 
Adults from 24 of the richest nations were interviewed for the survey. The results make depressing reading: young adults in England (aged 16 - 24) ranked 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy, while the proportion of adults in England and Northern Ireland with sophisticated literacy skills is below average and significantly worse than Japan, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden. Only the US and Germany trailed behind us (one saving grace at least).
 
Again, when it comes to advanced maths, we’re well below the global average (but still better than the US).

Brace yourself for the legions of critics of the education system thumbing their noses and trilling ‘I told you so.’ We don’t need to tell you that having a generation of 16 – 24 year olds with below average skills is not good for our future economic performance.
 
Mind you, we do shine in one area (ie we’re better than average). We can hear the cheers from Tech City as we speak – we do well in ‘proficiency in problem solving in technology-rich environments.’ Read as: we’re good at using computers - looks like the OECD could do with some literacy lessons itself with those explanations.
 
Sadly, though, we can’t get by on technology alone.
 
‘England is the only country where the oldest age group has higher proficiency in both literacy and numeracy than the youngest group, after other factors, such as gender, socio-economic backgrounds and type of occupations are taken into account,’ said the OECD.
 
Our skill sets are ‘bound to decline over the next decades unless significant action is taken to improve skills proficiency among people,’ it added.
 
Unfortunately, England stands out among other nations as a place where social background determines reading skills. The survey found children with parents with low levels of education in England have ‘significantly lower proficiency than those whose parents have higher levels of education.’
 
In other words, your chances of improving your economic situation are lower here than elsewhere. Having a bad record for social mobility is not something to be proud of and it’s something the department for education would do well to address. Why is the education system failing those from less privileged backgrounds?

Unsurprisingly the Government has blamed its predecessors in the Labour government, saying the youngsters in the survey would have been educated under the previous administration. Well, there’s no good in passing the buck at this point...

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