How should the UK Government improve the population’s skills in response to OECD skills survey? -John Gelmini

Government spending

Government spending (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

I am responding to Dr Alf’s open question, following his reblog of global media coverage of the OECD skills survey. He asked:

How should the UK Government improve the population’s skills?

The UK Government should be prepared to say and do some very difficult things but it will not do so because it lacks the courage to risk alienating voters over such an important measure.

It is also in thrall to Big Business and is afraid of alienating them. It is also frightened of challenging the teachers’ unions, so does not hold them accountable for poor performance.


Currently the UK school system is 44th in the world at State level and it is turning out students who are not job ready and in 1 case in 5 are functionally illiterate.

This is down in very large measure to:

–Trendy teaching methods
–Incompetent teachers
–Lack of discipline
–Bad diets of students
–Lessons lacking rigour
–Lack of work ethic
–School hours too short (South Korean schoolchildren work for 12 hours a day plus compulsory homework whereas ours with lunch-breaks included do less than 7)
–No Saturday school for laggards
Unionized teachers

All these trends need to be reversed and the Government should emulate the American style Troops to Teachers program for inner city schools.

The UK education system must be bench-marked to Global best practice, poor teachers sacked, school meals improved with advice from Jamie Oliver and Pru Leith.

School hours need to be extended to 12 hours a day, plus a Saturday school for laggards and also-rans.
Teaching unions are a central part of the problem and should be de-recognized, with all troublemakers fired and cleared out of the system.


Here the Government must use carrot and stick.

The stick would be reduced annual holiday entitlement for everyone to just 4 weeks with all Bank Holidays abolished except Christmas.

This would remain at 4 weeks unless and until :

–Productivity improved to Global top decile levels

–Skills measurably improved as a result of wider e-learning and a more streamlined Open University offering a bigger range of courses

–Training would also attract bigger tax breaks particularly if the training related to export led growth


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