UK & World News
Education Report: UK Lagging Behind The Best
The UK remains a long way behind countries like Singapore, Korea and Japan when it comes to basic standards in education, according to a major international study.
The 2012 Pisa report found the UK's performance in reading, maths and science has failed to improve in recent years.
Despite the UK spending more than average on education, there has been "no change" in attainment, it said.
Among the 65 countries which took part in the study, the UK ranked 26th for maths, 23rd for reading and 21st for science.
The research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) assessed how students could use their knowledge and skills in real life, rather than just repeating facts and figures.
The findings show that the UK's average score for maths was 494 and 499 in reading, broadly the same as the OECD averages for the subjects.
In these subjects, the UK was on a par with nations such as the Czech Republic, France and Norway.
In science, the UK's teenagers scored 514 points, above the OECD average and similar to results in Australia, Austria, Ireland, New Zealand and Slovenia.
However, the results leave the UK lagging far behind leading nations such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and Japan in each of the areas tested.
The OECD concluded that across all three subjects, the UK's average performance has remained unchanged since the Pisa tests of 2006 and 2009.
Andreas Schleicher, special adviser to the OECD's secretary-general, told Sky News: "We live in a global economy and the yard stick for success is no longer just improvement by national standards.
"It is about how competitive the school system is (and) how well young people are prepared compared to other people they will be living with in the same world.
"Countries may have different learning environments, different teaching environments and diversity is the strength of the world, but at the very same time we need to see ourselves in a mirror of what other countries show is achieveable."
However, headteachers have questioned the benefit of the study.
Paula Dixon, headteacher at Upton High School in Chester, where 80% of pupils gained grades A* to C in their GCSEs last year, said: "You really cannot expect Britain to do very well in the Pisa study.
"Our whole system is not designed to work well within that kind of framework.
"We know, because we have our own attainment tests in this country, that we are improving standards, and to compare us to South Korea or Finland doesn't make sense."
Anastasia de Waal, deputy director at the education think-tank Civitas, added: "The last thing we want to do is make our system responsive to international rankings.
"What we want to do is address the problems we know we have. They're well recognised, in particular this achievement map that we still have between rich and poor children.
"(We need to) address those, rather than getting distracted by what's happening internationally."
Labour accused the Government of failing schools through its education reforms but the coalition said the figures reflect Labour's policies when it was in power.