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Global educational levels sluggish despite increased spending, says OECD

Global educational levels sluggish despite increased spending, says OECD

MADRID, DECEMBER 3 (EFE-EPA):  Students in China and Singapore have outperformed their counterparts from other countries as global educational performance has remained sluggish over the last 10 years, despite a 15-percent increase in spending on schooling, according to an OECD report released Tuesday.

Drawing a grim picture of overall international learning standards, the report by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said one in four students in the club of 36 OECD countries were unable to complete “even the most basic reading tasks."

This meant that “they are likely to struggle to find their way through life in an increasingly volatile, digital world," said the report, which was based on the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

The global education test evaluates the quality, equity and efficiency of school systems. The latest survey quizzed around 600,000 15-year-old students in 79 countries and economies on reading, science, and math.

The main focus of the PISA 2018 report was on reading.

"Most countries, particularly in the developed world, have seen little improvement in their performances over the past decade, despite spending on schooling increasing by 15 percent over the same period," the report said.

But students from Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang in China (a non-OECD member) scored significantly higher in reading, math and science to outperform their peers in the rest of the countries that were surveyed.

Singapore, also a non-OECD country, bagged the second spot while Macao and Hong Kong – also in China – ranked third and fourth, respectively.

“Without the right education, young people will languish on the margins of society, unable to deal with the challenges of the future world of work, and inequality will continue to rise," said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría as he presented the report in Paris at the start of a two-day conference on the future of education.

"Every dollar spent on education generates a huge return in terms of social and economic progress and is the foundation of an inclusive, prosperous future for all," he added.

The report said the share of students with “only very basic reading skills” highlighted the challenge countries, including in the developed world, face in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

This is particularly true about "ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all," according to the report.

It said the social and economic background of students was one of the main factors for success at school.

"The gap between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged students is stark," the report explained. "The reading level of the richest 10 percent of students in OECD countries is around three years ahead of the poorest 10 percent."

In France, Germany, Hungary and Israel, the gap is four years.

But the relationship between reading performance and socio-economic status was weakest in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Korea, Norway, and the United Kingdom.

"This means that these countries have the most equitable systems where students can flourish, regardless of their background," the report clarified.

The report added that, on average across OECD countries, girls significantly outperformed boys in reading by the equivalent of nearly a year of schooling.

Across the world, the narrowest gaps were in Argentina, Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and Peru.

"Boys overall did slightly better than girls in mathematics but less well in science," the report concluded.

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