Comparing educational performance in China and the UK

18 Feb



A recent report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has assessed the performance in independently-administered exams in reading, maths and science, involving over 500,000 15 year old students in 65 developed countries. Part of the study asked the children to name their parents’ occupation in order to find out whether there is an association between their parents’ occupation and the pupils’ educational performance.


The result from this study was that children of those with a lower skilled job, such as factory workers and cleaners, in many Far Eastern countries, for example China, outperformed the children of British children who have parents with professional, high skilled careers, such as doctors and lawyers. The children of British professionals scored an average of 526 points in maths, whereas the children of professional workers in Shanghai-China scored an average of 656, and the children of low-skilled workers in Shanghai-China scored an average of 569; a difference of 43 points between those with a wealthy background in the UK and those with a poorer background in China.

This is an interesting result considering the UK’s literacy rate is higher than China’s literacy rate. Although there is only a small difference between the two, China’s literacy rate (those aged 15 and over who can read or write) is 95% (CIA World Factbook, 2010), however the UK’s literacy rate is 99% (CIA World Factbook, 2003), slightly higher than China’s rate.


As a result of this study, it has been suggested that the UK’s education system should be improved in order to ensure a more stable economic future for the country, and perhaps schools should try to mirror the teaching practices which have been adopted in China, which includes evening classes and eliminating time-wasting between lessons in order to improve the performance of pupils in key subjects such as maths and science.




CIA World Factbook, 2003 [online] Available at: [Accessed 18/02/2014]


CIA World Factbook, 2010 [online] Available at: [Accessed 18/02/2014]


The Telegraph, 2014 [online] Available at: [Accessed 18/02/2014]


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