The continuing lie about the decline in UK literacy
Most worrying failure to prepare to work is the relative decline of the UK’s median educational levels – falling like a stone on PISA tables;
While A levels grades are rising UK now 23rd in the OECD for reading and writing – we are very poorly educated compared to our competitors.
PISA stands for the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, the latest report for which appeared in 2009, and Phillip appears to have based his tweets on the comments about reading standards made recently by the Head of Ofsted:
It is a national concern and especially when you look at the international league tables which show that we’re down from 7th in the world 10 years ago to 23rd in the world and that countries are doing better than us…
This comment appears in turn to be taken from a Department for Education (DfE) press release:
England has tumbled down the international tables in the last nine years – from 7th to 25th in reading*; 8th to 28th in maths; and 4th to 16th in science
This would of course be most disturbing news, if it were true.
But it’s not true, for three reasons:
1) DfE/Ofsted fail to note that, in the PISA report, some 12 other countries, nominally above England in the 2009 tables, have statistically insignificant higher scores; statistically, the UK is not 23rd, but equal 11th.
2) Moreover, DfE/Ofsted fail to note that two countries in the 2009 tables are there for the first time, and so skew the trend;
3) DfE/Ofsted have ignored the OECD’s explicit warning (para 2) against comparing earlier PISA results with earlier data, because the very low response rate for earlier years created big concerns about sample validity.
Such basic failure of analysis would, I suspect, lead DfE/Ofsted to fail a maths GCSE, but then I also suspect this is less about about civil service incompetence, and more about political expedience. It suits Gove and his colleagues just fine to do down the achievement of 15 year olds and their teacher through the malicious use of falsely interpreted data.
* The discrepancy between the Ofsted (23rd) and the DfE figure (25th) can be reconciled by the fact that the original DfE coverage failed to notice that England was only behind Denmark and Chinese Taipei in the table because, though all three are on the same score, England starts with a later letter in the alphabet.