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Implications of PIACC Findings for England


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Dr Newman Burdett, Head of Centre for International Comparisons, National Foundation for Education Research presented at the BIS / Ipsos MORI event Improving basic skills: An international perspective on a UK dilemma in London on 14 January 2015.

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Implications of PIACC Findings for England

  1. 1. Implications of PIAAC findings for England Dr Newman Burdett 14th January 2015
  2. 2. Mean scores for England in each domain Source: PIAAC (2012) * The difference between England and OECD mean scores is statistically significant at the 5 per cent level Domain England mean OECD mean Literacy 273 273 Numeracy 262* 269 Problem solving in a technology- rich environment 281* 283
  3. 3. Key findings from PIAAC for England in Literacy Averageliteracyscore relative(toOECDaverage)
  4. 4. Other findings • The final stages of compulsory education do not develop young adults’ real world literacy and numeracy skills • Young people (aged 16-24) are less likely to be participating in education or training. • Young people (aged 16-24) are less likely to use numeracy skills in their daily lives than in most other countries.
  5. 5. So are we going to the dogs? “Those who moan that education standards have declined in Britain are correct, according to the OECD.” BBC Business 8 October 2013
  6. 6. How we did this • We combined the PIAAC data with a previous international survey of literacy skills, IALS, in which England participated in 1996. • By comparing more than one snapshot we can separate cohort and age effects because some generations are measured at two time points.
  7. 7. Why is it important to distinguish these two effects? • The cohort effect is the differences between generations, fixed over time • The age effect is the change in skills level in the same individuals over time
  8. 8. Our research found a different story to the one commonly reported • The cohort of 16-24 year olds in 1996 scored significantly lower on average than the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups. • When measured again in 2012, the same cohort (now age 32-40) scored 15 scale points higher. • This implies it is an age effect
  9. 9. How England compares
  10. 10. How to interpret this • This suggests a skills gain after leaving full- time education and entering the labour market. • The skills gain is relatively unusual to England. • This helps to explain why the skills of England’s young people are so low, while England’s overall average performance was similar to the average among all participating countries.
  11. 11. So standards have not changed? • This interpretation also fits with the other international survey data (e.g. PISA) that suggests that school performance in England in maths, science, reading and problem solving has not changed significantly since 2006.
  12. 12. Putting the findings into context • The United Kingdom spends more per head on education than the average across OECD countries • Only 6% of PISA UK students have a very low score on the PISA index of socio-economic background OECD 2012
  13. 13. What positive findings do our further research show? • Young adults continue to effectively develop the relevant skills while in the workplace – despite entering the world of work or further education with relatively low skills compared to other OECD countries. • Businesses in England seem to make more efficient use of these skills – giving young adults more opportunities to practise these skills – translating them better into productivity (earnings).
  14. 14. What about future generations? • The age effect only provides a forecast of the skills gain we might expect to see the current generation of young people experience based on the experiences of the previous generation. • If youth unemployment rises then opportunities for skills development might be missed. • The impact of extending compulsory education and training to 18 is not yet clear.
  15. 15. Caveats about international comparisons • Compulsory education ends at different ages in different countries. • Different countries might place different values on different skills. • The needs of different people / stakeholders / sectors will vary – there is no right answer. • IALS and PIAAC measure slightly different skills (although we have been careful to map them).
  16. 16. NFER provides evidence for excellence through its independence and insights, the breadth of its work, its connections, and a focus on outcomes. National Foundation for Educational Research The Mere, Upton Park Slough, Berks SL1 2DQ T: 01753 574123 F: 01753 691632 E: Reports can be found here: events/research-digs-deeper-into-young-adults- skills-in-england.cfm