Children of factory workers and cleaners in China perform better in exams than children of of British doctors and lawyers, a study the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found.
The study, that evaluated performance of more than 500,000 pupils worldwide, ranked UK pupils at 26th for maths, 23rd for reading and 21st for science while Shanghai pupils topped all three subjects.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the study looked at how students use their maths knowledge and skills in real life, rather than “just repeating facts and figures”.
The study also found that pupils from deprived backgrounds in Shanghai were the equivalent of a year of school ahead of UK children from wealthy backgrounds.
UK Education Minister Liz Truss said: Shanghai is the top-performing part of the world for maths – their children are streets ahead.
“Shanghai and Singapore have teaching practices and a positive philosophy that make the difference. They have a belief that diligence redeems lack of ability.
“Our new curriculum has borrowed from theirs because we know it works – early learning of key arithmetic and a focus on times tables and long division, for example.
“The reality is that, unless we change our philosophy and get better at maths, we will suffer economic decline.”