OECD finds UK growth stunted by poor numeracy

New research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has revealed that if every pupil in the UK attained a basic level in maths and science, the economy could grow by £2 trillion by 2095 – 143% of current GDP.

The full report 'Universal Basic Skills - What Countries Stand to Gain’, officially launched at this week’s UNESCO World Education Forum in South Korea, has ranked the UK as 20th out of 76 countries for maths and science, with around 20% of students considered to be underperforming in basic skills.

The OECD's education director, Andreas Schleicher explained that the comparisons demonstrate a direct link between education and potential economic growth saying "The quality of schooling in a country is a powerful predictor of the wealth that countries will produce in the long run. Or, put the other way around, the economic output that is lost because of poor education policies and practices leaves many countries in what amounts to a permanent state of economic recession.” 

The results are based on test scores of 15 year old students in maths and science in 76 countries, with Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea being awarded the top 3 spots. The report argued that improvement and subsequent growth is achievable by both low and high-income nations, with many countries who have faced social and economic challenges, such as Poland and Vietnam, showing significant improvement in the past 15 years and overtaking the UK in the rankings.

The findings follow research conducted by Pro Bono Economics for National Numeracy in 2014 which revealed that low adult numeracy is costing the UK economy £20.2 billion per year.

National Numeracy’s CEO Mike Ellicock said:
“We know that good numeracy skills are essential for individuals to fulfil their potential, which in turn benefits the larger economy. To create truly sustainable economic growth, it is vital that we tackle the pressing issue of low numeracy in the UK.”

Read the report overview