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).