Some months ago, MA sent me this link, summarizing research that indicates UK youth are less numerate and literate than seniors in the UK and than youth in many other OECD countries.
Research by the respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that 16- to 24-year-olds lag close to the bottom of global league tables in literacy and numeracy.
According to figures, England is ranked 22nd out of 24 western countries in terms of literacy and 21st for numeracy – being outperformed by nations such as Estonia, Poland and Slovakia.
In a damning conclusion, it was also revealed that levels of basic skills had effectively worsened over the last 40 years, with recent school leavers registering lower scores in tests than their parents’ or grandparents’ generation.
England was the only country in the developed world in which adults aged 55-to-65 performed better in literacy and numeracy than those aged 16-to-24.
If the trend I have experienced at the university level in Canada is common, we are facing similar problems in Canada. Students entering university, on average, do not read or write as well as they did 45 years ago, and their basic math skills are slipping. The top 10% or so are still excellent students, well-trained and very capable. But those in the bottom quartile of university students are often seriously lacking in basic skills.
Here are two general examples from my more recent experiences:
- Students are outraged when I tell them they may not use calculators during exams. They do not know how to do long division or multiplication without calculators.
- More telling was a problem in which they had to calculate 1.0 divided by 1/7.028 or something like that. About a quarter of the class didn't know or didn't remember that when you divide by a fraction, you invert and multiply.
Call it what you want, but students really do need more training in fundamentals.