Sat, Oct 12, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Survey shows England falling
behind in basic skills

It is not only mathematics and science skills that are faltering. Even literacy is declining among youth

By Randeep Ramesh  /  The Guardian, London

“The implication for England and Northern Ireland is that the stock of skills available to them is bound to decline over the next decades unless significant action is taken to improve skills proficiency among young people,” the OECD said.

These changes have already had major implications the global labor pool for talent.

Britain used to provide 8 percent of the best educated workers — but today only providing 4 percent of the top qualified labor.

By comparison South Korea was not on the map two generations ago. Young South Koreans now make up 6 percent of the highly skilled talent pool.

What is clear is the rise of a very different form of training and education in East Asia, designed to rapidly lift their populations out of poverty. Nowhere is this more stark than Japan, where people leaving high school achieve a higher literacy level than English graduates.

At a fringe meeting attended at the Conservative Party conference, British Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Education Matt Hancock told delegates that Japan’s model of vocational training was something that the “government was looking at very closely.”

“People talk about Germany and its progress in making sure non-university graduates are skilled up for the workplace. However, the real success is Japan,” he said.

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s deputy director for education and skills, said that Japan is very good at developing skills, but its “education system works in silos and productivity growth is so-so. Compare this to the UK and US, where they are no longer good at developing talent, but very good at extracting value from the best workers.”

“It is a question of which problem do you wish to have? In Japan they need to fix labor markets and make them more responsive to skills. In the UK it is a much harder problem to fix which is creating a training program,” he said.

Basic skills across the developed countries

Literacy for people aged 16-24

1 Finland

2 Japan

3 South Korea

4 Netherlands

5 Estonia

6 Australia

7 Sweden

8 Poland

9 Czech Republic

10 Germany

11 Austria

12 Slovak Republic

13 Denmark

14 France

15 Canada

16 Norway

17 Ireland

18 Spain

19 England and N Ireland

20 UK

21 Italy

22 Cyprus

Literacy for all adults

1 Japan

2 Finland

3 Netherlands

4 Sweden

5 Australia

6 Norway

7 Estonia

8 Slovak Republic

9 Flanders (Belgium)

10 Canada

11 Czech Republic

12 Denmark

13 South Korea

14 England and Northern Ireland

15 Germany

16 US

17 Austria

18 Poland

19 Ireland

20 France

21 Spain

22 Italy

Numeracy for people aged 16-24

1 Netherlands

2 Finland

3 Japan

4 Flanders (Belgium)

5 South Korea

6 Austria

7 Estonia

8 Sweden

9 Czech Republic

10 Slovak Republic

11 Germany

12 Denmark

13 Norway

14 Australia

15 Poland

16 Canada

17 Cyprus

18 Northern Ireland

19 France

20 Ireland

21 England

22 Spain

23 Italy

24 US

Numeracy for all adults

1 Japan

2 Finland

3 Sweden

4 Netherlands

5 Norway

6 Denmark

7 Slovak Republic

8 Flanders (Belgium)

9 Czech Republic

10 Austria

11 Germany

12 Estonia

13 Australia

14 Canada

15 South Korea

16 England and Northern Ireland

17 Poland

18 France

19 Ireland

20 US

21 Italy

22 Spain

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