Recent research on adult skill levels in 24 rich nations sparked a rush of headlines on the inadequacy of our education system. England came 15th in literacy and 17th in numeracy in the global league table, based on a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The report also revealed that people aged 16 to 24 were less literate and numerate than those aged 55 to 65.
Predictably, the Conservatives pointed out that the younger cohort is a product of Labour policies, while the opposition was able to observe that those aged 25 to 34 were scarcely any better.
Since few people will read a densely-researched 500 page survey, early reports have, understandably, been selective in highlighting the most dramatic, high-impact findings from a rich, complex and sometimes contradictory mass of research…
The first important lesson to be learned in the UK is the need to improve the quality of secondary education, which consistently fails too many children. Part of this is likely to involve breaking the national fixation on progression to higher education as the only measurement of school success. To do this politicians need to better promote the value of vocational education.
A second lesson is to consider how best to ensure skills are used at work or in preparation for work. Surely this must mean weaning employers off the expectation that the state should pay for training people in employment. We need to equip adults with the literacy and numeracy skills to function as citizens for moral and economic reasons. There is a role for the state to facilitate young people\’s transition into work. But beyond this, we need to debate whether public funds are best routed through employers, colleges and other providers.
The overall message from the OECD is that, in an increasingly competitive world, the UK cannot afford to waste the potential of so many of its citizens. We need to support lifelong learning, not simply as a second chance to those failed by schools, but also to help individuals to retrain and up their skills, especially if they\’re employed by places unwilling to invest in their development.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at