Study: UK students lagging academically

According to a recent report by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), British students are lacking academically. The wealthiest students in the UK scored worse on exams than the children of blue collar workers.

Senior European Commissioner Viviane Reading says that the standards of British schools need to be raised and that politicians in the UK need to improve the education system before they focus on changing the country's relationship with the EU. She suggested that Britons cannot compete with foreigners for jobs due to the UK's poor education system and that the politicians need to "work on the quality of education and welfare, so that people in this country can find employment and enjoy reasonable social standards."

The OECD findings underline the extent to which British pupils lag behind their peers in high-performing countries.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss plans to lead a delegation of teachers and education experts to China, which may lead to schools in the UK adopting Chinese education methods, such as having classes in the evening and monitoring time wasting activities between lessons. The OECD studied the results of exams in math and science that had been independently administered to 15 year olds from 65 developed nations. The study also looked at how well students could use their math skills in real life, not just how well they could repeat facts and figures.

"(In China) they have a can-do attitude to math, which contrasts with the long-term anti-math culture that exists here," said Truss. "The reality is that unless we change our philosophy, and get better at math, we will suffer economic decline. At the moment, our performance in math is weakening our skills base and threatening our productivity and growth."

The UK is ranked 26th in math, 23rd in reading and 21st in science. China's Shanghai district was 1st in each subject. Generally, children whose parents are professionals score better on these exams than those of more blue collar workers, but on this exam children were asked to name their parent's occupation and it was discovered that those whose parents were more blue collar outperformed those whose parents had professional jobs.

The children of professionals in the UK scored 526 points on average in math. In China, the children of professionals scored an average of 656, and the children of blue collar parents scored an average of 569. The children of blue collar parents in the UK scored an average of 461.

The report said that "In the United States and the United Kingdom, where professionals are among the highest-paid in the world, students whose parents work as professionals do not perform as well in mathematics as children of professionals in other countries — nor do they perform as we as the children in Shanghai-China and Singapore whose parents work in manual occupations."

The deputy director for education and skills at the OECD said it seems as though if schools want their students to succeed, "they should give the children of factory workers and cleaners the same education opportunities as the children of doctors and lawyers enjoy."

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