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UK scores mixed in EU school report: improvement in reading, poor in maths and no change in science
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The latest OECD report on the maths, science and reading skills of 15 year olds reveals mixed results for Member States. The EU as a whole is seriously lagging behind in maths, but the picture is more encouraging in science and reading where Europe is on track to achieve its 2020 target for reducing the percentage of low achievers[1] to below 15%. The UK data shows decreasing number of low achievers in reading, increase in maths and no change for achievement in science (see table in annex).

    UK scores mixed in EU school report: improvement in reading, poor in maths and no change in science

    In 2012, 16.6% of 15-year olds in UK achieved low results in reading, a decrease of 1.8% compared to 2009. 21.8% scored low on maths, a 1.6% increase compared to 2009.There was no change in the number of poor results in science with 15% low achievers overall. On all three subjects the number of low achievers in the UK is lower than the EU average – 17.8% for reading, 22.1% for maths and 16.6% for science respectively. However, this still leaves the UK behind top performers like Estonia, Ireland, Poland and Finland.

    At EU level, the findings reveal that ten Member States (BG, CZ, DE, EE, IE, HR, LV, AT, PL and RO) have achieved significant progress in diminishing their share of low achievers across all three basic skills since 2009. But five EU countries (EL, HU, SK, FI, SE) have seen an increase in the number of low achievers. Overall, EU performance is slightly better than the United States, but – much as the US - lags behind Japan.

    Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, commented: "I congratulate those Member States which have improved their performance, but it is clear that the EU as a whole needs to work harder. Member States must sustain their efforts to tackle low achievement in school education to ensure that youngsters have the skills they need to succeed in the modern world. The results are a reminder that investment in quality education is fundamental for Europe's future."

    The European Commission analysis of these findings highlights that the socio-economic status of pupils has a significant bearing on performance levels, with those coming from low-income households much more likely to be low achievers. Other significant factors include the mainly negative effects of being of migrant background, the importance of attending early childhood education and care, as well as the gender gap in reading proficiency (girls do much better than boys).

    [1]See May 2009 Council Conclusions on a strategic framework for European co-operation in education and training:


    The PISA survey has been carried out every three years since its launch in 2000. All 34 OECD member countries and 31 partner countries participated in PISA 2012, representing

    more than 80% of the world economy. Around 510 000 pupils aged from 15 years 3 months to 16 years and 2 months took part in the tests, which covered maths, reading and science, with the main focus on maths.

    Next steps

    The Commission will discuss the PISA 2012 findings with Member States to help identify measures to remedy weaknesses. A first exchange is planned at the next meeting of EU Education Ministers on 24 February. The results will also be used for the Commission's 2014 'European Semester' which produces country-specific recommendations linked to basic skills.

    Annex: Progress towards the benchmark of less than 15% low achievers in reading, maths and science among 15 year olds [1]


    Source: OECD, PISA 2012. No data available for Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
    Note: [1] The PISA 2012 scores are divided into six proficiency levels ranging from the lowest, level 1, to the highest, level 6. Low achievement is defined as performance below level 2: reading (score <407.47), mathematics (score <420.07) and science (score<409.54).

    Benchmark 2020: The share of 15 year-olds with low achievement in reading, mathematics and science [1]

    For more information, please contact the London press office on 020 7973 1971.
    Please note: all amounts expressed in sterling are for information purposes only.


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    Last update: 11/12/2013  |Top