back to article Blighty's kids nosedive down global reading, maths rankings

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 …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not really a surprise..

    We've known for a long time that the only thing school leavers can do is pass an exam to get an A and make excuses...

  2. adnim

    Could it be...

    That these days children are being taught to pass exams rather than being taught the subject?

    I have worked in IT for over 15 years progressing from 1st line helpdesk to IT management, it seems to me that most IT related courses follow such methodology. Perhaps the school curriculum works this way too? It might also explain the record numbers of examination passes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Doesn't explain everything

      A lot of Asian countries use extremely didactic learning techniques with relatively little emphasis on comprehending what students learn. If anything they are even more strongly geared towards passing exams.

      In Britain it is (god and I sound like should be reading the Mail here) that we've stopped teaching basics and cut back on the amount of time students spend doing stuff. Grammar, creative writing, algebra and geometry (let alone calculus) seem to have been completely sidelined whilst subjects like Chemistry, Biology and Physics are almost unrecognisable because of the fear that someone might do something terrible with the xylene*

      * which I assume is now banned on the grounds that it can be dangerously fun to use.

      1. Graham Wilson

        @Mike Richards -- You're absolutely correct. RIP the Western Intellectual Tradition.

        "* which I assume is now banned on the grounds that it can be dangerously fun to use."

        Absolutely correct. And the average kid today has never seen mercury let alone been taught how important it is or how to work with it safely.

        It's no wonder that science and industry is moving to Asia where such inhibitions appear to be sheer nonsense.

        RIP the Western Intellectual Tradition.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @mike richards

        The problem now, in the UK, is that kids are not allowed to fail. So everything gets pitched at a level that prevents it. I'm not even sure they break kids up into sets anymore, and teach the more advanced stuff to the more intelligent.

        As you say there is even a view that spelling and grammar aren't important, as long as a child is encouraged to express themselves... unfortunately, without teaching them the necessary tools, they are crippling what they are capable of expressing.

        As for chemistry, that must be terrible now, we used to set fire to all sorts of things, amply protecting the desks with asbestos mats.

  3. Si 1

    What outrageous sum?

    Or are you another one who fails to recognise that students won't pay for their degree until they've got the qualification and are earning enough to pay for it? A far better solution compared to all of the up-front costs I had to find thanks to Labour voting for tuition fees.

    Not that this isn't all Labour's fault to begin with, what with them blowing all the tax payers' cash on a massive, ineffectual public sector, illegal wars and oh yes, destroying our education system with endless bureaucracy, political correctness and red tape.

    I'm sure literacy and numeracy isn't helped by all the newly arrived school kids who can't speak English and need a tax payer funded translator too.

    1. Naughtyhorse
      Thumb Down

      what bollocks

      it all went titsup under the tories as any fule kno

      student loans, endless fiddling with the curriculum and exam systems, and the frankly mental idea that 50% of out kids should go to college. (thats a 500% (maffs or wot!) increase over the old level of....




      THATS why we cannot afford free places for all, theres FIVE TIMES as many of the buggers.

      AND ANOTHER THING! all the lazy buggers are doing meeeja studies or norse bleedin mythology at uni, which is why we are at the arse end of league division 2 in all the world rankings.

      fyi going to college these days is

      a> no guarantee of a job, good or otherwise and

      b> no guarantee of higher earnings.

      for me a 21 yo who has worked, at a real job, for 5 years is of infinitely more worth than one who has spent the last 3 years watching whatever replaced richard and judy.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: what bollocks

        "it all went titsup under the tories as any fule kno"

        Let me interrupt this Britard squabble (Labour and Tory supporters rubbishing the other side and denying that their favourites did any wrong) to point out that although the Tories did a lot of damage to the education system, it was Labour who eventually betrayed the students by abolishing grants and introducing fees.

        If either party had the backbone to actually pay teachers, maybe the profession would be able to do a better job with what they have to work with. If either party weren't putting students into significant debt (and more or less excluding the poorest from higher education altogether), people would be learning the unsexy subjects instead of the "meeeja studies" that they perceive will land them a nice, well-paid job at the end of their studies. If either party didn't have a City of London fetish (cue besuited politician stroking his legs in a creepy fashion while chanting "The City" over and over again), people might want to do genuinely useful subjects (think of stuff like science and engineering, for example, given that the lights will go out in Britain unless people start coming up with good ideas soonish) and then be able to get decently-paid jobs which have some actual meaning, as opposed to ones which, say, involve parading "send a text to this number/download this app" shit in front of gullible punters.

    2. CD001


      You were doing so well until the closing paragraph too... you sounded like a mild-form of Tory bigot - and then you went and blew it.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    No Country for Talented Minds

    Plenty of dedicated and caring people I know from my Uni days have been training up for teaching in recent years, but in key areas like math only a total idiot would pass up a chance and milking a job in finance or Countdown, so we'll not likely see a change unless we start exporting ignorance...

  5. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    No surprise here

    My 13-yo kid asked me for help with a question about geometry. I looked at it, said "you do this and this, then solve the quadratic equation". I got a blank stare in response and "a quadratic what?".

    C'mon, Education Minister, order some Russian math text books if there aren't proper ones here. Until what age do you suppose children should be taught math on apples and oranges? Why aren't they being taught formal mathematical expressions FIRST and THEN asked to solve applied problems, not the other way round???

    1. Anton Ivanov


      I have now seen Russian, Bulgarian, American and British educational systems firsthand. The first 3 myself and the fourth through the prism of my 8-year old's suffering.

      No other country in the world teaches at least 3 different reading methods (falling back to a fourth for the ones that are too confused by the first 3), at least 3 different methods for addition and subtraction and god knows how many other "alternatives" for everything else.

      It is not surprising that a lot of children cannot read and even more hate math after they have been through this. It is not surprising that they are behind the rest of the world in rankings. Teaching 5 ways to do everything takes time, effort and ensures that any sufficiently bright student is terminally bored and hates school, education and the subject matter.

      Not just Russian. Give me any other country's curriculum any day compared to what is used now.

      1. Naughtyhorse

        5 ways to do everything takes time, effort

        let me introduce Microsoft (insert name of app here) and of course autocad.

        5 ways to do even the most simple task is the new black dahlink

    2. Graham Wilson

      @Vladimir Plouzhnikov You're correct but it wasn't always this way!

      You're correct but it wasn't always this way. Postmodernist mumbo-jumbo, rigour-less crap snuck into syllabuses when you techies weren't looking.

      In the late '60s and through the 1970s and '80s the technical and scientific communities--having thought the war between science and ignorance had been won in science's favour--just dropped the ball and sat on their laurels.

      And guess what? In snuck all the anti-scientific dumbed-down crap along with the ditching of discipline, the cane, and other methodologies that encouraged the learning of essential subjects that would never be learned if left to the student alone--effectively, it was the same as putting uneducated kids in charge of the syllabus.

      Having gone through secondary school in the early 1960s, I fortunately just missed the effects of this Trojan horse which had such a debilitating effect on education.

      Shame we can't charge those responsible with treason--treason committed against the young.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Vladimir Plouzhnikov You're correct but it wasn't always this way!

        "In snuck all the anti-scientific dumbed-down crap along with the ditching of discipline, the cane, and other methodologies that encouraged the learning of essential subjects"

        The cane encourages the learning of essential subjects in what way, exactly? Or do the essential subjects include "institutionalised violence on weaker individuals"? Discipline is obviously essential in a teaching environment, but the Finns' success (in terms of results and with maintaining classroom discipline) has nothing to do with corporal punishment. Maybe one should be looking in that direction instead of trying to recreate some kind of "Tom Brown's Schooldays - and it was good for me, too!" fantasy.

  6. Tom 7

    I still have my O'Level maths book from pre 1974

    its easily as hard as the A'Level these days. A teacher explained to me why this was not true but his argument didn't add up.

    1. Code Monkey

      I'm one of the lucky ones

      Educated in the 80s before the relentless pressure to have better exam results year-on-year did too much damage (it was definitely there though). There are some things I resent: religious dogma at the expense of science and having to learn grammar via a foreign language because it's not taught in English but all in all we left school equipped to think for ourselves.

      These days it seems the only thing kids leave school with is a bag full of noddy exams and a colossal sense of entitlement that their intellectual abilities do little to justify. We've let down an entire generation. By "we" I mean successive governments.

      Blimey I've turned into my dad.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Blimey I've turned into my dad

        The final stage of growing up is realising that you've turned into your mum or dad.

        On the bright side, at least you are smart enough to realise that you've turned into someone who was right all along.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      this one here is yours!

      I know because of the book in the pocket.

  7. OffBeatMammal

    points for "working out"

    my daughter can get credit for question simply by showing "working out" or "describing the problem in words"... even though it's the wrong logic or answer. What message is that sending?

    (we now homeschool - it's harder to manage, but the results are a lot better)

    1. TwistUrCapBack
      Thumb Down

      results of homeschool ??

      the most likely result is that your kids grow up finding it more difficult to socialise in a group of their peers . . .

      (but they may find it easier to formulate a quadratic equation to work out how many friends they havent got)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maths, what maths

    My eldest just started secondary school this term. He is supposed to be one of the brighter kids, but at the end of primary school he was still doing topics I've have been expected to know at 8. There was no real geometry, no trig, no logs, bog all fractions, no algebra

    I guess is today's parlance there was "no nothing" beats me what they've been doing for the last 7 years.

    Its no wonder we're bottom of the table, we've stopped actually teaching the subject.

  9. Steve Evans

    I'm not surprised...

    I've just received a "WTF" mobile phone shot from a friend of mine who's discovered a 16 core windows DELL box running in the local primary school.

    I was initially impressed that they were obviously offer 7 year olds courses in nuclear physics, or at least doing some impressive real time ray trace rendering, but it appears the box is purely a file and print server. The CPU usage graphs are a uniformed flat line (yes, at the bottom).

    No wonder they don't have any money left for those old fashioned things like teachers!

  10. Wommit

    Not at all surprised

    Yearly the annual spend on education has increased and yearly the standards of attainment have dropped. Money is being pissed away in stupid 'educational theory's' most only succeed in wasting money.

    And what have we ended up with?

    Educationalists who are far more concerned with disruptive individuals rather than the education of the whole class, that that person is destroying.

    Children who are advanced a school year when they are incapable of understanding their current studies and subjects, upon which the year they are entering is based. because that would mean 'failing' the children. So rather than making kids redo a year so they have a chance of understanding the material, they advance onto subjects that they have no chance of understanding. So they get bored and disruptive. But that's OK because _they'll_ be looked after.

    Kids leave Senior School (as we called it) unable to read and write, not knowing their own history or geography and with no understanding of how money flow works. But with an expectation of a 'good' job with middle class wages, without understanding any of the concepts that 'work' requires. i.e. getting up on time _every_ morning, staying _all day_ and WORKING!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    As an aside ...

    This winter in the UK seems to have had more girls/women enjoying the snow than boys/men - according to my less than vigorous empirical observations.


    bigger girls/women pulling younger children in sledges

    groups of youngsters having "reasonable (not harmful)" fun in the snow

    It was pleasant to see young mums pulling kid and shopping in small sledge with the bairns usually wide eyed with excitement.

  12. david 63

    But we do have...

    ...the best geography teachers in the world...

    1. Andrew Richards

      david 63

      I, for one, salute this particular reference that's probably flying high over the heads of at least some others.

      What's Govey going to do, eh Govey? Etc.

  13. deshepherd

    @No surprise here

    Nor here either. My elder son has just started GCSE's this year (and so we we've discovered the world of bite-size units, continual project work, controlled assesments, regular exams etc). I happened to pickup his physics revision notes book the other night and was somewhat surprised to find that major topics in GCSE Physics topics now are Plate Techntonics (wasn't that Geography) and Astronomy (and in attempt to "keep dwn wiv da yoof" each page has a jokey line at the bottom like "the milky way ... its not just a chocolate bar")

    The final straw came when I looked for anything about maths that might be relevant for GCSE physics (n.b. Newton's laws didn't qualify for a name check in the index ... possibly dead white guy syndrome) and found a small section which said (and I think this is a pretty accurate recollection of what it said) "you may need to use some maths in paper 3 where the questions tend to be more physicsy (sic)".

    At least in the mock exam he's just taken he's being assessed as A* potential ... not sure wether this says more about him or the exam!

  14. Bassey

    What a bunch of...

    ....miserable, moaning bastards you all are. Jesus, it's like listening to the "Yorkshiremen" sketch from Monty Python - only you lot don't appear to be taking the piss. Do you really all have such an appalling opinion of young people? Have you ever tried talking to them (god forbid)? In my experience they are generally well mannered, well meaning people who just want to get on in life - just like me when I was there age.

    It's hardly surprising we have some of the worst figures for mental health amongst our younger people though. With their own elders all so willing to shoot them down at a moments notice I'm amazed the poor little feckers can bring themselves to get up in the morning.

    Moaning bastards, the lot of you.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Aye, in my day

      15 of us lived in t'septic tank.

      Meanwhile, back in reality.

      I'm a grumpy old fart where I work, however I do try and teach the youngsters we hire to run the machines some stuff, so that just maybe, they can learn to program the robots and earn themselves more pennies from t' mill owner.

      So why is it with every single one that I have to explain x^2+y^2=z^2 and simple trig such as Tan theta = opposite/adjacent.

      Then howto use very simple algebra to be able to solve each equation for any 2 given values.

      OK, yes, they're not from the top of the schooling table, most of them being boring average kids, but come on, simple basic maths....?

      And dont even get me started on their english skills.. which for the most past, way worst than mine.

      Boris CSE english(fail)

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Have you ever tried talking to them?

      If by "them" you mean the kids then I see nothing but sympathy for "them" here. Each of the commentards appears to be reporting from personal experience as a parent, so I expect they've done quite a lot of talking to "them".

      If by "them" you mean the politicians who have spent a quarter of a century relentlessly fscking up the system until it can teach nothing more than drooling, then I doubt we've done much talking. For one thing, "they" live on another planet. For another, if we were confined in a small space with these bastards we'd probably lynch them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a bunch of...

      You should go back and read the posts. They're generally moaning about the education system which is failing the kids, not moaning about the kids themselves. It's not these kids' fault that they're undereducated and I think everybody here would agree.

      Good manners aside, a decent education would perhaps serve them better in life unless the establishment just +want+ generations of mindless well-mannered individuals to work in the low-paid service industries which will fill the jobs market at the cost of meaningful careers... "Do you want fries with that? Thank you, have a nice day"... ;)

    4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


      ...being well mannered, well meaning people doesn't bring in the bacon.

    5. Charles Manning

      It's a rite of passage

      Every generation are louts in the eyes of their elders. Has been so since Ogg had to kick 14-yo Ugg out of his nest of animal skins to go mammoth hunting. Like us, they will get over it and become bitter and twisted and slag off their kids too.

      This is a tradition.

      Take away tradition and Blighty is just a swampland floating off the W European coast.

    6. asiaseen

      'Twas always thus

      since the beginning of time.

    7. Graham Wilson

      @Bassey - Isn't it obvious that it's not the kids' fault?

      @Bassey - Isn't it obvious that it's not the kids' fault?

      It's our fault. We adults concocted the dumbed-down, postmodernist, no-winners-no-failures, anti-discipline, politically correct, crappy education system that these poor kids have to endure.

    8. Wommit

      Re: What a bunch of...

      Ummm talk to them.

      Like most comentards I work in IT and, when trying to fill a vacant post, like to look for younger people, they're cheaper. :) And we can train them in the skills that we need, rather than the skill set that their last place used.

      I've tried. I've interviewed 'them' for Honours Degree student placements. Most thought that I would be happy to hear youth slang during their interview. Especially when 'communication skills' was a stated essential skill. One couldn't even speak. The one gem in the entire bunch was Nigerian. She got the placement, and left the country a couple of years later with a good degree and a years worth of real experience.

      I've had college graduates, to train and mentor. Most couldn't even do basic maths. Rounding was a totally foreign concert. One, whose CV proudly boasted of completed college IT projects, didn't even know the difference between a variable and a constant.

      Our schools are turning out people unemployable for any but the most menial jobs. They cannot read, think that txt spk is the proper to communicate (and get very angry, physically so) when you tell them that international companies DEMAND clear English. And think that people with a Masters degree and 20+ years experience in a field that they're trying to enter, doesn't know what he's talking about "because we didn't do it that way in college."

      So, hopefully, you'll get out into the real world and realise that us moaning bastards actually have a lot to moan about.

    9. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
      Thumb Up


      Absolutely, well said.

      I have two daughters, aged 10 and 14. Both seem to me to be getting a good education, which plays to their strengths whilst also pulling them along in subjects they are weaker in. Their friends mostly seem well mannered and reasonably knowledgeable, with only a few exception who get looked down on by the rest of the crowd.

      They'll manage well enough, just as we did in our time.


    10. Anonymous Coward

      @What a bunch of...

      Perhaps your reading and comprehension needs some work.

      Few here are picking on the young.

      Just about all are pointing out that they have been short changed by the ignorant academics with their “No one must fail” nonsense, along with political crap to ensure every year the “exam result have higher passes” without comparing quality.

      This is that same bull that was started by the idiot Major, then taken to the extreme by Tony and Co, were mediocrity is celebrated, failure hidden and talent ignored.

      The result being a steady decline in standards for nearly 20 years (it started with the original GCSE's being on par with the old CSE, not the 'O' levels and going down from there), and as the students know no better they assume that the A-C grades are good.

      This in turn results in the expectation of almost 50% of teenagers, that it is a right to go to University to study utterly useless courses, and be given money by the tax payers to fund this waste of time. Plus they are lied to about this being a way ty better employment and higher pay, where as most degrees taken will never, ever pay for themselves let alone improve income over thier lifetime.

      I have sibling in the teaching profession; who for many years enjoyed teaching Chemistry and other Sciences and now teaches Maths. The primary reason for the change was that no real science is being taught and it was just too depressing teaching what should be Geography/Geology and Primary School Science. The other reason being that in Maths there is less worry about being sued by the parents of some little sod who drank the alcohol/acid or set fire to themselves let alone the other H&S brigade.

      One positive note:

      The latest Maths paper that was sent out for mock's and as an example of the new examinations (not sure if its for summer 2011 or 2012) was a shock to most of the teaching staff. Only those who were in teaching during the good old 'O' level years were happy to see that things may soon moving back in the right direction.

      Anon to protect the innocent.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's a radical plan

    Maybe we should separate our schools from the political system and avoid the inevitable "necessary shake up" every time one bunch of losers beats the other bunch of losers.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Yes ...

      ... the OECD report notes, according to the report in the Telegraph:

      "Countries where schools had more bureaucratic freedom performed better and the study showed a strong link between good discipline and high scores "

      Of course, the government response to our recent poor performance in this test means that they will feel they need to exert even more control.

  16. web_bod

    Disgraceful performance

    The Irish results are embarrassing - one of the highest GDPs in World and over 20% of boys fail to meet the OECD averages - guess national pride is just another thing money can't buy.

    As for the "respect and value our youth" bollox - they're over-fed, over-privileged and under-achieving - a feckless shower of wannabies.

  17. disgruntled yank

    kids today!

    1. I love the idea of separating schools from the political system; or rather I would if I could imagine what it meant. How will one pay the teachers, establish curriculum, accreditation, and so on? Various Americans seem to think that handing off school management to unelected administrators (NYC, DC) is not political; it is politics of a sort they favor, that's all.

    2. I think of Trollope's autobiography:

    "Looking back now, I think I can see with accuracy what was then the condition of my own mind

    and intelligence. Of things to be learned by lessons I knew almost less than could be supposed possible after the amount of schooling I had received. I could read neither French, Latin, nor Greek. I could speak no foreign language,--and I may as well say here as

    elsewhere that I never acquired the power of really talking French. I have been able to order my dinner and take a railway ticket, but never got much beyond that. Of the merest rudiments of the sciences I was completely ignorant. My handwriting was in truth wretched. My spelling was imperfect. There was no subject as to which examination would have been possible on which I could have gone through an examination otherwise than disgracefully. And yet I think I knew

    more than the average young men of the same rank who began life at nineteen."

    Somehow or other the man turned out OK, didn't he, as novelist and as civil servant.

    1. Graham Wilson
      Thumb Up

      Correct. All that seeming boring school shit integrates with time.


      All that seeming boring school shit integrates with time to become useful in unexpected ways.

      It's time the impatient realised that there are no real shortcuts to a decent education. Anyone who has ever learned to play the piano knows damn well that the skill doesn't come without many hours of tedious boring Czerny scales. Any skill well learned requires tenacity, effort and perseverance.

      This instant gratification society we now live in has to realise that education still remains an exception to its new dictum.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Experiences in Canada

    Being a Brit living in Canada I though I might give some observations on the situation in BC.

    Kids start school a couple of years earlier in the UK so my kids entering junior school here found the work insulting and demeaning. They studied the same things over and over again, stuff that was covered in the UK over 3 years prior. Reading, spelling, grammar are *awful* and the kids lack any kind of maturity.

    I actually found that the kids' standards dropped for the first 2 years for the lack of any kind of challenge.

    Now here is the rub. After moving to high school, the kids play this awful game of catch up. Having been molly-coddled for the first few years of their educational lives, they have to work, and work hard. My daughter is doing the International Baccalaureate program to try and get back on target. She has a mountain of homework every night, and over the weekend she has even more. This because they are covering 2 years work per year to get to a standard that has any kind of worth.

    I blame a system that does not challenge kids, where the kids start way too late and a need to tackle a large influx of kids that speak little or no English. Oh, and by the way, once those non-English speaking immigrants have learned English, they tend to out-perform their native peers, so I think the sense of entitlement thing has an effect here also.

    Sounds like the UK is now trying to follow the Canadian model: dumb down the subjects, give everyone an 'A' and shove them out into the real world unable to use language effectively or understand basic mathematics and science.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That would be the New Labour effect, then

    Far too many people in the educational establishment (and the rest of the socialist community) believe passionately that everyone must be equal. As any engineer could tell them, that basically means standardizing at a level well below what would otherwise be the average.

    1. Semihere

      Epic fail on your understanding of Socialism

      Firstly, New Labour weren't Socialist, and secondly you have major misunderstandings of what Socialism is.

  20. Mike Ball


    Whats this points system then? We all happy we understand exactly what it's measuring and how the numbers are produced? What was the average number of points for each subject last year and the year before?

    Crap, I don't want to read the OECD report and methodology, I've got better things to do, the pubs are open.....

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A General Problem Of The Anglosaxon World

    ...seems to be that nobody can do Newtonian Physics and everybody is in "Time Travel" "Red Dwarf" and "hilarious, strange WTF particle" discussions.

    Other countries teach Newton, Watt, Gauss, Coulomb, Ampere, Volta, Pythagoras in a quite rigorous manner and actually educate people who can design a fast, reliable car or a tool machine. And that's what the Chinese are willing to buy.

    The astrophysics stuff is mainly done in half-scientific crap magazines.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Scores around 500 or so sound nice, but what's the range on this? I'm reminded of the Massachusetts standardized tests, which give 200 points for writing your name but only 80 more for answering the questions correctly. Probably the result of someone being afraid of 'hurting kids' self-esteem' by giving them the low grade they actually deserve.

  23. Tom 35

    "they'll be incapable of writing any protest placards."

    They can always go the the US and join the tea baggers.

  24. Mark 65


    Surely median would be more appropriate?

    On the subject of the results I live in Australia and all I can say is that the UK must have gone right downhill since I left because the people I deal with day in day out here are as thick as pig shit and they're supposed to be the cream. Their grasp on the language is limited even in its bastardised format (2 privately schooled, top 5 uni educated people believing the plural of deer is deers) and I've been decidedly underwhelmed by their mathematical skills too.

  25. Dave Bell

    The context changes.

    One thing I've become aware of is that, since I was at school, we know a lot more about how children learn. There are certainly bad things arising from the over-emphasis on exam result, but it would be a mistake to assume that the teachers are no better at their job.

    I think I survived a couple of teaching fads that were pushed on the schools I went to, by less than adequate teachers in a position of power. I find it quite easy to believe that the modern system has removed the worst of the teachers. But when the money is in the school's exam results, they're going to do everything they can to get the pass-rate up.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Macho Culture

    The macho culture in my school (96->01) bred contempt for anyone with intelligence and ambition. In my experience I was labelled a SWOT and had to endure five years of constant jibes and ridicule. In Asia the opposite is true and they are climbing far ahead of us. As long as the bizarre western belief that being intelligent at school is 'uncool' then we'll be relegated from that table.

  27. Anonymous Coward


    So let's get this straight - what's wrong with the modern curriculum is there's not enough use of the cane, and we should teach children abstract mathematical concepts and then later think about applying them to real world examples involving fruit? Ooookay. (And there's never been a socialist engineer, apparently.)

    Possibly starting with abstract, dry concepts works for an auto-didact like Jeremy Bentham, but there's not that many of those children around.

    I didn't have to know what a quadratic equation was until I was about 14. That didn't stop me getting a degree in mathematics by the time I was 22. (Perhaps somebody would like to interject with a rude comment about whatever august institution you'd like to guess awarded that to me.) I also managed to get a job in a Chinese city where lo and behold, nobody in the office is capable of mental arithmetic.

    But since 'anecdote' is not the singular of 'data', attending to a few outliers from one another's experiences isn't really going to convince anyone, is it?

  28. Graham Wilson

    Absolutely correct. Now we're paying the penalty.

    Absolutely correct.

    And over the last forty years or so this wishy-washy postmodernist doctrine has infiltrated all of the English-speaking world: US, Canada, Australia, UK, NZ etc.

    Now we're paying the penalty.

    Has anyone wondered why we're buying everything from China these days instead of making it ourselves?

    ...For starters, every member of Chinese politburo has a degree in engineering. And us? Right, we allow ourselves to be governed by the useless, unproductive dross of society: lawyers, accountants and economists etc.--those who wouldn't know one end of a screwdriver from another let alone the functional intricacies of say an iPod or Nokia, nevertheless we consider them sufficiently qualified to govern us.

    Yes, we've only ourselves to blame and our fucked education system is only making matters worse.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      One man's postmodernism...

      ... is another's meaningless term, apparently. Or do you actually mean something by this "postmodernist" you throw out in every comment to this story? Something that, perhaps, bears some resemblance to how the word is used in an actual field?

  29. william henderson 1

    they are eventualy going....

    to get exactly what they want.

    an unthinking, uncomprehending public that thinks that corronation street is real life and 15 units is plenty for any one.

    a compliant public that can be easily and cheaply anesthatised outside working hours.

    1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

      15 units?

      Well, one doesn't want to over-do things at lunchtime, you know?


  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not surprising.

    There was some ludicrous woman, an "expert" on education, on LBC yesterday who said that we weren't that bad, we were pretty much average, and this was because of inequality. All we have to do, is solve inequality, and it will be alright.

    My first job as education secretary, would be to make a public statement that any company who employed her would lose all government work.

    Can you imagine turning to your boss, and saying "People can't use our service because they can't afford the latest computer, so all we have to do is tell them to save up and buy a new one?"

    How long would you remain in your job?

    When is the government going to realise that these liberal minded quangoites are just morons?

  31. Ken 16 Silver badge

    Did you read the report?

    The UK is average on Reading and above average on Science, the same as Ireland who you describe are trouncing you and scores are down from the previous report for both countries.

    I guess the UK science rating isn't enough above average to have covered the definition of 'not statistically significant'.

  32. Sirius Lee

    @disgruntled yank - Trollope

    I think you are confusing the squirming self-deprecation of an extremely well educated individual (public education then on to New College, Oxford when Oxford really was a university to be reckoned with) and reality. He sat for the bar exam and, although he failed, to get that far would have needed more than a passing familiarity with Latin.

    Using the self-description of an well educated, upper middle class 19th century Briton doesn't really compare to the current education system others have commented on.

    1. disgruntled yank


      I draw on Trollope's autobiography, which is quite explicit on the failure of Harrow to teach him anything; he claims to have learned the elements of arithmetic from a postmaster he was auditing. The autobiography mentions nothing of New College or the bar, and Wikipedia appears to support this. (Yes, yes, Wikipedia; but I don't keep the Dictionary of National Biography on my shelves.)

      I mention him chiefly because of his distaste for the then-new system of competitive examination for admission to the civil service.

    2. disgruntled yank

      neglected to say

      That the curious may find the autobiography at

  33. Anonymous Coward


    we have factory schools, staffed by idiots and bureaucrats... and one old guy who would love to teach you some real science if they would fucking let him.

    But they bent his ass over a table because Barry thick-wit couldn't get his brain around the exam paper (which at this point basically involves copying out the question verbatim into the space below the question), so Barry got an E and now they're going to paddle your dear old science teacher's ass for a solid ninety minutes until he "gets his shit together". So no time for him to teach real science any more, he has to spend his day dealing with Barry's filthy fucking mouth, and phoning Barry's parents, who are exactly the sort of people who would take a shit in the park and not dispose of it properly afterwards.

    Then Barry, if it pleases him to do so, will join the English class, 20 minutes late, only to find a room full of kids kicking the shit out of each other and no teacher. The PE teacher was too busy to cover, and none of the other teachers can speak English anyway (bar that one science teacher who is presently getting a curry sauce enema from the administration).

    This is exactly what happens when you let your politicians look after your kids and it is for precisely that reason that you should never enlist the help of any politician to "think of the children". When a politician thinks about children, future generations get skull fucked.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    shouldn't be forced

    too much emphasis is placed on making sure every child learns. If they don't want to, and just want to disrupt the class, then why should schools care? Push the responsibility back onto the parents, if they don't care either, why should anyone else. Eject the kid from the class, provide something to keep them occupied, ie a room with a console, pool table etc. to keep them in schools still, but just leave them to it. Don't force them to be in a class if all they are going to do is disrupt it.

  35. Michael Wojcik Silver badge


    "as long as we face an international future where punching above our weight means being able to pontificate on scientific progress via text message"

    A future much like the present, then.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    Hush now?

    I'm trying to pick my nose and there is a crusty bit right at the back near the top.

    Trying to twist my wrist to reach the crusty bit, read and type without salivating over the keyboard is a bit tricky.

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