Royal Society: UK Education System Will Fail in 20 Years

In a study released this week, The Royal Society states that the UK educational system will fall apart in the next 20 years.

According to the study, titled “Vision for Science and Mathematics Education”, a “baccalaureate-style” education should replace the A-levels currently in existence.  Students should be focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses through age 18.

Currently students can opt-out of these courses at age 16.  The report suggests that even students who choose to follow an arts and humanities course continue to take science and math courses as well.

Professor Dame Julia Higgins, vice-chair of the vision committee, states:

“Estimates suggest that 1 million new science, technology and engineering professionals will be required in the UK by 2020 and yet there is a persistent dearth of young people taking these qualifications after the age of 16.

Sir Martin Taylor, chair of the Royal Society’s vision committee, claims that science and math will be increasingly important in the near future, and the UK is falling behind, writes Ian Silvera for The International Business Times.

“Science and mathematics are at the absolute heart of modern life. They are essential to our understanding of the world, whether that is knowing where the energy that powers our homes comes from or making sense of the public debate on the latest evidence on climate change.

He added: “Too many people in the UK are mathematically and scientifically illiterate. We want to link people’s learning and skills to the current and future needs of the economy.

Currently, primary schools in the UK are doing well in these subject areas.  In secondary schools, the report suggests that science and math courses be taught by someone holding a degree in the subjects.

The study also asks teachers to be better qualified to assess students’ achievements.  They ask that teachers spend more time on professional development and creating innovative lessons, and less time on exams.  Teachers should be expected to reach subject expertise and have a teaching qualification.

Report co-author Dame Alison Peacock, head of the Wroxham School in Hertfordshire, said:

“Teaching is a chronically undervalued profession in the UK. Our country’s future prosperity rests in teachers’ ability to inspire and guide our young people, yet we don’t currently adequately recognise or reward them.”

In 2012, the Programme for International Assessment (PISA) results showed that the UK was 23rd in reading, 26th in mathematics and 20th in science among industrialized countries. That science ranking dropped four spots from 16th in 2009, while reading (25th) and mathematics (28th) had improved slightly.

The Royal Society – formally known as the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge – is a scientific adviser to the British government which was founded in 1660 by King Charles II. It is thought to be the oldest such society still in practice in the world.