England’s young adults flounder in literacy and maths

| 08/10/2013

(BBC): Young adults in England have scored among the lowest results in the industrialised world in international literacy and numeracy tests. A major study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows how England's 16 to 24-year-olds are falling behind their Asian and European counterparts. England is 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24 countries. Unlike other developed countries, the study also showed that young people in England are no better at these tests than older people, in the 55 to 65 age range. When this is weighted with other factors, such as the socio-economic background of people taking the test, it shows that England is the only country in the survey where results are going backwards – with the older cohort better than the younger.

The highest-performing countries among this younger age group were Japan, Finland and the Netherlands. The country with the lowest numeracy skills was the United States, plummeting from once being one of the strongest education systems.

This landmark study from the OECD set out to measure the level of skills within the adult population – testing actual ability in literacy, numeracy and digital skills, rather than looking at qualifications.

It involved 166,000 adults taking tests in 24 education systems, representing populations of 724 million people. From the UK, adults in England and Northern Ireland participated.

The study looked at the level of skills across the adult population, between the ages of 16 and 65. England and Northern Ireland are below average for both literacy and numeracy, in league tables headed by Japan and Finland.

But for most industrialised countries the younger population are much better at such tests than the older generations.

However, for England, when the results are separated from Northern Ireland, there was a different and unusual pattern, with almost no advance in test results between the 55 to 65-year-olds and those aged 16 to 24.

This younger group will have many more qualifications, but the test results show that these younger people have no greater ability than those approaching retirement who left schools with much lower qualifications in the 1960s and 1970s.

The grandchildren are not any better at these core skills than their grandparents.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Yet We Are

    So he’ll bent on bringing in teachers from the UK?
    Our teachers from around the region is far mor superior.

    • Anonymous says:

      "our teachers . . . is far mor superior" – you could not make it up.  Nice free form capitalization too you got going on, buddy.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I believe you will find that if all the schools are tested that the private schools do better. The teachers are one of the problems. In public schools as soon as little Johnny fails his parents want to kill the teacher.

    In private schools if johnny fails and his parents blame the teacher. He's kicked out.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why do refer to a child's "parents" in the plural when talking about public schools?

  3. Anon says:

    If the same test was done in Cayman the older generation would probably come out on top too. Maybe because we actually had to use our brains?  We don't have degrees but we can read, comprehend and add, subtract, multiply and divide !! 

    • Anonymous says:

      I would agree on average. But we do have some super smart well educated young Caymanians that may beat us older people. My view is that in general younger people are bombarded with so much information these days in convenient forms like the computer and television screen and blackberry or iphone that they have littletime to concentrate and learn math which is a repetitive process or to take the time to read and understand. More class time needs to be dedicated to math and english and sciences and vocational/technical as the rest can be learnt more informally on their own.

  4. Anonymous says:

    And these people are tke ultimate decision makers in what happen to education in Cayman. They call our young people dumb, because they know we are dumb, after all they are aware of what we are allowed to teach in our schools.

  5. Whodatis says:

    Oh dear … oh my.

    Some of us have been highligthing these issues for some time now, but I will avoid elaboration at this time because adding too much "Whodatis" to this story will be like throwing a lit match to gasoline.

    However, again, I trust this report serves as further evidence as to why we MUST be cautious as we swallow every suggestion and element of UK guidance as it regards governmental and socioecomic concerns.

    The UK is in a bad state, Cayman is in its worst state since our economic boom – however, it is clear that blindly following the "mother country" will not necessarily result in an improved reality.

    Lastly, we would be well advised to take much of what comes our way via the UK with a tremendous grain of salt, simply because many of the proponents are living in the faded glory past.

    If anything, we must muster up the courage to look within and formulate a tailored roadmap with the failures and shortcomings of "greater" countries as red arrows rather than unseen or unavoidable pitfalls.

    • Anonymous says:

      Read this dumb ass, not doing so badly considering your dire warnings from numptyville.


      Perhaps you should listen after all, mother really does know best. The problem is that Cayman can't face up to the reality of actually having to pay their own way in the world. Exactly what do you produce, apart from a lot of hot air?

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh dear, most predictable comment. Not good in the UK, I will agree. But at least they have such reports and do something about it. All you do is moan about the UK and blame it for all Caymans problems when Cayman has had control of its own finances and schooling for years. We all know it is even worse here in the non private schools, so what exactly is Cayman in general and whodatis in particular going to do about it? My guess, nothing as usual 

    • Whodatis says:

      I was about to reply in earnest to my respondents but then I remembered the facts surrounding their deplorable standards of education as outlined in this very news report.

      Most likely, they lacked the ability to properly read and comprehend what is before them, poor sods.


      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, that is why they let me into Cambridge.  It is a remedial university according to your hypothesis.

      • Freedom!! says:

        As in the ability to properly read that only England and Northern Island were included, therefore referring to the UK in relation to this matter would be incorrect given the UK includes Wales and Scotland?  Scotland has its very own education system that was once lauded the world over, and even with the meddling from the idiot politicians over the last decade or two, it is still a system that I will choose above all others to educate my children through when they reach school age. 

        This post is not intended to say anything negative about the educationsystem here in Cayman, there are some very good schools and some very bright pupils emerging from all of the schools, but just as in any country in the world, you have the 'bad' with the 'good'.

        We must also look at this issue from another angle – some of the most successful people of our age did not do well at school at all.  People apparently without a good education as suggested by this study in question, perhaps due to failings of the education system or the child simply not being bothered for some reason, can still go very far in life. 


      • Anonymous says:

        I don't think that someone who has understood the underlying message of the article to be that there are no well educated young Brits, or that there are no excellent UK schools, should critique someone else's comprehension skills.

        And just to touch on one of your recurring themes, when Cayman engages with anyone designated by the FCO to assist on anything, those individuals will almost certainly be the smartest, most educated individuals in the room. They will not be drawn from the uneducated mob, as you like to portray, which unfortunately is not something that can always be said about their Caymanian counterparts

      • Whodatis says:

        Geez … with all dem booklearnins' – you would think they'd know when to quit.


        Clearly the report is bang on the money.

  6. Anonymous says:

    However this means that the UK has a far superior system than Cayman.  Cayman proudly announced a recent improvement in literacy rates which placed it just below Uzbekistan and well outside the top 100 nations in the world.

    • Anonymous says:

      LOL.  Your attempts at spin are hilarious. Can you please link me this report as to a poor literacy rate in Cayman that you speak of.  

      • Anonymous says:

        The UDP produced a paper in the last administration about the "success" of getting literacy up to 90%.

        • Anonymous says:

          Where is that paper, please? I cannot find any news articles on it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Whatcha talkin' 'bout, Willis? What announcement?

  7. Anonymous says:

    I hope this really shuts up the Brits and Yanks on here who constantly go on about how cr@p Cayman's education system is.

    • Anonymous says:

      It probably won't because this doesn't change anything: your education system & pupils' results are the same whatever reports come out about other countries. Just because the US & UK do less well doesn't mean that therefore Cayman is now doing well! Cayman didn't even feature in the report.

      Anyway, UK & US results are worse because all the smart people have left those countries, & maybe even come to Cayman to steal your jobs! (Joking).

      • Anonymous says:

        It should mean that they don't point fingers and try to make Caymanians feel inferior when their own education system is in a poor state. 

        Nope. The smart people are still in those countries. We only get the ones who couldn't hack it there.   

      • Anonymous says:

        Ummm…the report was on OECD countries. Cayman is not an OECD country so obviously it would not feature.

    • Anonymous says:

      And where do you think Cayman would be on this list if they were tested?

    • Anonymous says:

      Nope, the Cayman public school system is really really crap.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hmmm. Remind me. Which two education systems are prevalent in the Cayman Islands?

      • Anonymous says:

        At least now we know why. The point is they were blaming it on Cayman.