Teenagers 'ignorant about world'

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The Independent Online

British schoolchildren are bottom of the class when it comes to international awareness, according to a study published today.

A poll of 11- to 16-year-olds in 10 countries found that British youngsters were the least likely to make the effort to understand current events in the world or to learn a foreign language.

The 10 countries included in the survey of 4,170 children were Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, Germany, India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the UK and the US. Given a ranking on a score of one to seven after answering a series of questions, UK children scored just 2.19. Next to bottom were American teenagers with a ranking of 2.2. Top of the class were the Nigerians with 5.15. A breakdown within the UK found that English pupils scored 2.17 compared with 2.26 in Northern Ireland, 2.35 in Scotland and 2.43 in Wales.

The findings will be presented today by Martin Davidson, chief executive of the British Council which commissioned the survey for its annual conference at the QEII Centre in Westminster.

"Our schoolchildren cannot afford to fall behind the rest of the world," he said. "For the UK to compete in a global economy, it is vital we encourage our young people to have an interest in the world around them."

The survey also showed that when asked if they would go out of out their way to understand international issues, only 28 per cent of UK youngsters replied "yes". In Brazil, the figure was 69 per cent.

In addition, only 70 per cent of British children thought it important to learn a foreign language compared with 100 per cent in Saudi Arabia and 97 per cent in Brazil.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families defended the teaching of foreign geography, history and languages. "These figures hide a huge range of positive activity going on in our schools," he said.

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