English teenagers 'are most illiterate in the developed world', report reveals

English teenagers ranked bottom of 23-strong table for literacy

Eleanor Ross
Friday 29 January 2016 11:48
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School students struggle with basic numeracy and literacy when they graduate
School students struggle with basic numeracy and literacy when they graduate

English teenagers are among some of the least educated in the developed world, a report reveals.

Young people aged between 16 and 19 have been found to possess only a “basic” grasp of maths and English, with nine million people of working age having low literacy or numeracy skills.

The report, conducted by the OECD (the Operation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) found that out of 23 developed nations, English teens had the lowest literacy rates and the second to lowest numeracy rates.

The report summarised that one in five young university students could manage basic tasks but might struggle with anything advanced, like reading instructions on an aspirin bottle.

It concluded: "university teaching gives limited attention to low levels of literacy and numeracy. Graduates with low basic skills gain modest returns from their qualifications and will often not be able to repay their student debts. England has a large university system relative to a poorly skilled pool of potential entrants."

Based on 2012 data, the report acknowledged that conditions were likely to improve with Michael Gove’s reforms to keep children in education until the age of 18. The reforms have introduced harder GCSES and some vocational subjects like the nail technician certificate have been ditched.

However, some critics have used this opportunity to call out the government, blaming the failure of educational policies for English children's illiteracy. Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment told The Times that education in England has been “blighted by the beliefs of progressive education. The older generation did English and maths in a formal way but progressive beliefs took over and the children's grasp of basic skills declined.”

A government spokesperson told The Mirror that "Good English and maths skills are essential to success in later life, and thanks to our reforms thousands more students are leaving education with these vital skills.”

South Korea came top of the list for both literacy and numeracy skills.

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