UK schools lag behind Asian rivals in global league tables

Tories and Labour blame each other for 'stagnation' of standards in maths, reading and science

LAST UPDATED AT 09:05 ON Tue 3 Dec 2013

PUPILS in Britain are falling behind their contemporaries in Asia in core school subjects, according to new global education rankings released today.

Results from the Program for International Student Assessment (Pisa), based on tests of 500,000 pupils in 65 countries, will reveal that the UK has "simply stagnated" since its last poor rankings four years ago. Pisa's figures are compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In the UK, 12,638 students sat the two-hour problem-solving tests in 477 secondary schools – but their results put the UK behind China, South Korea and Singapore in maths, reading and science. 

There is predicted to be little change since 2009, when the UK fell from 17th to 25th for reading, from 24th to 28th for maths and from 14th to 16th in science, slumping behind poorer countries such as Poland and Estonia.

About a fifth of 15-year-olds in Britain in 2009 failed to gain even the minimum standard expected for their age group in literacy and maths.

Labour and the Conservatives are trying to blame each other for the results. Writing in the Sunday Times, Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, says the results are a "wake-up call for UK schools policy".

Education Secretary Michael Gove's "frenetic, attention-seeking changes of the last three years — relentless structural reforms, last minute curriculum rewrites, multiplying assessment criteria — have not delivered the step change in standards we need", he said.

But Gove has hit back, saying the results are a "judgment on the past not the present".

In Monday's Daily Telegraph, he accuses Labour of producing a "lost generation of young people without proper qualifications".

The teenagers who took the OECD tests last year are of the Blair/Brown generation, he says. Pointing to Coalition reforms such as the introduction of academies and free schools, he adds: "We must all ensure that we accelerate the pace of those reforms that we know — from the experience of other nations — will promise our own children a brighter future." · 

Disqus - noscript

You cannot compare English Schools and Asian Schools our English schools are replete with Political Correctness.

What are the measures used? How close, on those measures, are the scores? Etc.

I don't doubt there are very serious problems in the literacy and numeracy levels are poor.

I saw (BBC News) that in China, some young kids study 12 or more hours per day, plus homework. I don't think we should go down that line, in the long run it will do harm.

"In the UK, 12,638 students sat the two-hour problem-solving tests in 477 secondary schools – but their results put the UK behind China, South Korea and Singapore in maths, reading and science."

Even journalists misuse "but"!!!

(Some of us misuse "!" !)

China, South Korea and Singapore. Well they've contributed zip to scientific discovery in years and there are a lot of them and they're all swots.

All these results show is that kids in the countries mentioned excel at passing tests. In the school I work at, we have many Korean kids, all good at answering factual questions, not so good at making inferences, debating issues, demonstrating creativity. The have a fiercely ingrained sense of higherarchy, which causes a lot of bullying between boys in particular. Education must be holistic, covering the development of critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and fostering independence. This is largely lacking in schools across the region which is why, while students can make it in their own country, they are like fish out of water elsewhere.

Ah, good old Political Correctness, the source of all our ills. Innit.

lols @ Higherarchy. Are you the Janitor or PE Teacher?

...I dread to think what standard of teaching you employ. Your written English and grammar are atrocious - therein lies the problem!

"Higherarchy"! My God!

...exactly so. PC is so deeply ingrained in the UK's mainstream "teaching" culture that it is very much taboo to chastise, discipline or engage in other "negative" teaching practices.

Discipline in the classroom is an absolute pre-requisite to providing an environment that is conducive to learning; too many, very capable, children are being deprived of their right to a decent education due to poor teaching practices and classroom disruption due to indiscipline.

Competition and the pursuit of excellence in the classroom are anathema to our current bunch of state sector teachers (although, fortunately, we still have the rump of the Grammar Schools).

Orwell saw this coming from the Isle of Jura.


For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.

Read more about