Students who are not native English speakers often work harder at speaking and writing good English than native English speakers. This has been rammed home to me by the recently published study on international literacy and numeracy by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development).
The UK (excluding Scotland and Wales) came 13th for literacy and 16th for numeracy In a study published in October 2013 0f more than 150,000 people aged 16 to 65 in 24 countries. For people aged 16 to 24 the UK ranking was 22nd and 21st respectively.
Adults with the highest levels of literacy (4 or 5) are three times as likely to enjoy high wages as those with level 1, according to the OECD. And the study reports that countries are more successful economically where businesses are closely and proactively involved with the education process.
In the UK, business are not proactively involved with education, despite the trend for internships (often unpaid – scandalous).
It is time for UK business to get involved with education rather than just complaining when confronted with people from school and university who are ill-prepared for life and unfinished in their literacy and numeracy skills. In my old job as director of a marketing company we often employed school-age students as interns during their summer holidays, and we were impressed with their brightness, industry and productivity.
Sadly, we can’t trust the politicians to deliver. An Education Minister is in post for only 3 or 4 years, and his or her successor is bound to move the educational goalposts, even if they are from the same political party. Constant change is not a good business model and makes teaching very difficult. Let’s leave education in the hands of the teachers, supported by parents and businesses – politicians can have an overview but not control of the curriculum.
BBC business editor Robert Peston has written in his blog on 8 October: “… the OECD would argue is that, where employers have more of an impact on what is taught in schools and subsequently, both skills attainment and economic performance improve. This is not about companies bossing schools around but about a social compact between the private sector and the education system, where there is a mutual acknowledgement of the imperative of preparing younger people for the better jobs of tomorrow.”