Global Literacy Scores, Including Math, Lowest since 2000

math literacy, math, literacy, OECD

The OECD reports an alarming decline in global literacy scores, including math and science, reaching the lowest levels since the year 2000.

  • The survey conducted in 2022 shows a significant drop in mathematics, science, and reading skills, with nearly 700,000 15-year-olds tested globally.
  • The pandemic only partially contributed to the results. There are other factors to consider.

Global literacy scores, including math and reading skills, among teenagers across 81 countries have declined, scoring the lowest numbers since 2000.

In its latest survey of global learning standards, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) revealed that nearly 700,000 15-year-olds in 81 countries underwent testing. However, one in four emerged as low performers in mathematics, reading skills, and science.

The study was conducted in 2022 and marks one of the sharpest performance drops since the OECD started triennial (every three years) testing in 2000. And before you call foul play, it was closely monitored by policymakers. Compared to the last assessment in 2018, reading scores fell by 10 points on average in OECD countries, while mathematics scores plummeted by 15 points, equivalent to three-quarters of a year’s worth of learning.

Over half of the 81 surveyed nations experienced the decline. However, what took me off guard was that Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Poland saw particularly steep drops in math scores. Yiykes!

While the organization acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic did a number on the world, it only played a partial role. Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director of Education, noted, “COVID probably played some role, but I would not overrate it. There are underlying structural factors, and they are much more likely to be permanent features of our education systems that policymakers should really take seriously.”

Not to pull a boomer on you but I’d be disingenuous if I don’t mention that the report found a correlation between mobile phone use rate for leisure and poor results. 

But it’s not all bad news. Regions that provided the needed support during the pandemic generally fared better. Academic support helps? Who would have guessed that?!

The decline was not, in fact, universal. Singapore, for one, its students achieved the highest scores in math, reading, and science. Other top scorers are Macau, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea. They all excelled in mathematics and science.

The report clearly shows the need for countries to reevaluate and restructure their education systems, emphasizing investment in teaching quality, teacher autonomy, and overall student well-being.

It’s kind of ironic that our tech is evolving and getting smarter while our children regress. Don’t you think?

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