The article says young people with poor basic skills shouldn’t be studying at university. Allowing such weak students to graduate undermines the value of degrees.
But is it true that 20% of young English graduates struggle to undertake tasks more difficult than reading instructions for taking aspirin or understanding a petrol gauge?
The data underlining the report came from the Adult Skills Survey 2013. The OECD warned the survey’s results should be used with caution because of sampling problems. These particularly affected England.
But the authors of ‘Building Skills for All’ don’t seem to have followed OECD advice. They’ve taken the data at face value and haven’t included the caveat. This rather undermines claims about poor basic skills among young graduates.
That said, the report contains pertinent comments about education and basic skills in England. Its recommendations are as follows (author’s comments in brackets):
The OECD noted that English pupils take high-stakes examinations (GCSEs) at 16, two years earlier than upper secondary exams in many other countries. If the English education system were to be designed from scratch, the report said, it’s not likely it would ‘include an awkward programmatic and institutional break point at 16’.
The more ‘radical’ solution would be to ditch GCSEs in favour of an ‘English Baccalaureate’ at 18. This is something I and others such as the CBI have argued for – graduation at 18 possibly by multiple routes. The OECD recognises that other voices might argue this is not possible because of the ‘labour market currency of GCSE’. It says, therefore, there must be ‘stronger options post-16’ to ensure all under 19s have access to good quality education.
Good quality post-16 education needs appropriate funding. But the Government expects schools and colleges to make savings while it shifts money from one pot to another and continues spending money changing schools into academies when there’s growing evidence that changing a school’s structure does not automatically bring improvement.