New research has placed Britain fifteenth in a list which compares the achievement of 15 year olds in mathematics, reading and science. The findings, released by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), compared the results of international standardised tests to compile a list of the countries with the best ability to produce all-round academics; individuals skilled in maths, science and literacy, at the age of 15.
Among British children, 4.6% achieved the highest grades in the three disciplines, a figure which is still above the OECD average of 4.1%, but which falls well behind other nations in Europe, Asia and the Pacific. Finland topped the tables in Europe, with 8.5% achieving the top grades, whilst the figure rose to a tenth in New Zealand, and one in 8 in Singapore. Top of the global list was Shanghai, with a staggering 14.6% of students achieving the top grades across the three areas.
In Europe, Britain performed similarly to the Germans and French – and better than Austria, Denmark and Italy, all of whom fell below the OECD average, with Spain and Greece registering even lower scores still. In addition to Finland, other top performers included the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.
The deputy director for the OECD’s education and skills unit emphasised the importance of high proficiency in the three subjects to a country’s ability to produce workers who were able to compete on a global scale; although he also suggested that the proposed changes to the UK education system hold the promise ‘to raise standards in science, reading and maths’ – which would help the UK be more effective on the global stage. The education minister, Elizabeth Truss, stated that the reforms were focused on ‘ensuring that young people are strong in these vital subjects.’
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