Not ready for work

Sir Digby Jones, Director General of the CBI, congratulated GCSE students on their exam results yesterday but warned that the education system was still leaving too many unable to read, write, or count adequately.

“Every student deserves praise for their achievements and I wish every one of them a prosperous future, but there is clearly a systemic failure in the education system as yet again almost half of GCSE entrants have failed to reach the basic levels of competency in the ‘three Rs,'” Sir Digby said.

“Being taught how to read, write and add-up was regarded as fundamental right for all in the 20th century, so why in the 21st century, is the education system of the world’s fourth richest economy seemingly unable to deliver?”

Competency in the ‘three Rs’ is measured by achieving Grade C or above in both English and Maths. This year 60.9 per cent and 53.4 per cent achieved the respective marks.

According to the CBI, the figures are evidence the system is failing teenagers and the taxpayer, as well as employers who have to pay for remedial training for new recruits on top of the taxes they have already paid to fund the education system.

“Children need to be functionally literate and numerate – we need urgent curriculum reform and to ensure that teachers have the right skills to deliver basic numeracy and literacy,” Sir Digby said.

Separately, Sir Digby warned of “a ludicrous political correctness, ideologically enshrined in the education system which has removed all notions of success, failure, competition and risk-taking from schools.

“It seems that nobody must be allowed to set the bar of their ambition at a height that could risk disappointment even if, in practice, pupils do not grasp the fundamentals of a subject or, frankly, cannot read or write properly.

“This patronising approach has eroded the spirit of competition and drive that is vital to power our success in a competitive globalised economy. We even have voices calling for ‘failure’ to be replaced with ‘deferred success’. Where is the success, deferred or otherwise, in entering the world of work unable to read or write?”