An OECD study released today highlights disturbing trends in adult literacy and numeracy across 24 industrialized nations. England and the United States scored particularly badly in the tests and the OECD warn of a "shrinking pool of skilled workers."
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study tested basic levels of literacy and numeracy in all adults and young adults aged 16 to 24. The results highlight a disturbing trend in England with better results in literacy and numeracy for the older generation than the 16 to 24 year-old group, revealing that 8.5 million adults in England and Northern Ireland have the numeracy skills of a ten-year-old child. The United States faces an even more marked decline, the OECD warned last year that the United States faced educational "downward mobility" with the younger generation having poorer educational standards than the older generation.
Out of the 24 countries tested and with 166,000 adults in total taking these tests, across the 24 participating countries, England came 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy. The United States came 20th for literacy and 24th for literacy in the 16 to 24-year-old age group and 16th for literacy and 20th for numeracy in the mixed adults group.
Matthew Hancock, the Government's Skills Minister, said: "This shocking report shows England has some of the least literate and numerate young adults in the developed world,
"These are Labour's children, educated under a Labour government and force-fed a diet of dumbing down and low expectations."
Of course, it's unsurprising that a Conservative government minister should use these results to make political statements. What is surprising is that the younger generation of English adults tested had more qualifications and better school exam results than the older adults tested yet scored lower. It really does seem to indicate how examination results in Britain have been "dumbed down" over the past 30 years or so.
The countries with the lowest overall scores in these tests were Italy and Spain, while Japan and Finland achieved top scores. The OECD believe high school graduates in Japan have literacy skills comparable to those of Italian university graduates.
The OECD recognized the advances made by Finland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden in increasing adult learning rates among the lowest skilled within society. This survey has confirmed previous OECD research stating high-quality early schooling is an important predictor of success in life for adults. It stated that between 7 and 27 percent of the population in the participating countries was unable to master the simplest of computer skills, such as controlling a mouse.
The OECD study concludes: "Overall, the results suggest that investments in improving adults' proficiency in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments may have significant benefits."