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Blighty's kids nosedive down global reading, maths rankings

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Britain's schoolchildren have slipped down the international league in reading, maths and science, according to the latest batch of numbers from the OECD.

The organisation's biennial PISA study ranks international 15-year-olds by their performance in the three disciplines. This year the UK's schoolies gave a distinctly average showing on reading - scoring 494 points compared to an OECD average of 493 - and slightly worse on maths, scoring 492 compared to an international average of 496.

There was mild good news on the science front, with the up-and-coming generation getting 514 compared to the international average of 501. However, you can't help thinking they could have done even better had the kids been able to write up their experiments and results correctly.

Korea and Finland are the international OECD swots, with mean scores of 539 and 536 respectively on reading, demonstrating just how important a vibrant mobile phone industry and superfast broadband are to overall literacy.

However, even they were spanked by OECD partner country Shanghai-China, which achieved a whackingly large mean of 556. Shanghai-China also scored 600 on maths and 575 on science.

Overall, the UK placed 25th on the OECD's tables for reading, being comprehensively spanked by such literary giants as Canada (526) New Zealand (521) Australia (515), the US (500) and Ireland (496). And that's just the English-speaking world. Well, broadly speaking.

The story is similar with maths and science, with the UK coming in 28th and 16th respectively, although the UK does squeak in ahead of the US in those categories.

In 2000, the UK ranked fourth in science, seventh in reading and eighth in maths, in a sample of 32 countries. These positions changed to 17th on reading, 14th on science and 24th on maths in 2006, when the survey covered 57 countries.

If the UK wins out anywhere, it is in being resolutely average. Its results were classed as "not significantly different from the OECD average" except in science, and the reflect and evaluate, and non-continuous texts sections of the reading tests, where it was "statistically significantly above the OECD average".

Which is great news, as long as we face an international future where punching above our weight means being able to pontificate on scientific progress via text message. ®

Bootnotes

Of course, this does raise questions over the current student protests. Perhaps all the government needs to do is sit tight and wait for the current crop of undergrads to move on. The up-and-coming generation won't realise quite what an outrageous sum they're paying for their remedial degrees if the OECD's figures are anything to go by. And even if they do, they'll be incapable of writing any protest placards.

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