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Education in the United Kingdom- Statistics & Facts

According to the OECD’s most recent PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) rankings, which assess 15-year olds in English, Math and Science for international comparison, students from the United Kingdom had the fifth highest average score in Europe, behind Ireland, Poland, Finland and Estonia. While the newly elected government of Boris Johnson will hope to improve that even further, the country has clearly made progress in this regard, overtaking Germany for the first time in 2018.

Overcrowded classrooms and the pandemic pose challenges

If the UK wants the best education system in Europe, it may have to increase its overall spending in this area, with the country spending 4.9 percent of gross domestic product on education. The UK also has a problem with overcrowded classrooms, having the highest pupil-to-teacher ratio in primary schools in Europe, and the fourth highest pupil-to-teacher ratio in European high schools. The situation in Nursery schools is even worse and has deteriorated the most in recent years, with a pupil to teacher ratio of 22.9 in 2018/19, compared with just 17.2 in 2010/11. The number of teachers in the UK has also fallen slightly in recent years, from 550 thousand in 2015 to 548 thousand in 2020. In the same time period the number of students attending schools has increased by 352 thousand. The Coronavirus pandemic that hit the UK in early 2020 was an additional challenge for many parents, with 40 percent of parents reporting that their children had trouble focusing on studies after moving to remote learning. According to the same survey around one in ten parents reporting having trouble accessing an appropriate device, with the government mitigating this somewhat by providing over 1.3 million laptops or tablets to education providers in England between May 2020 and July 2021.

How UK students are evaluated

In terms of how students in the UK are evaluated, high school students in the United Kingdom are assessed through an academic qualification called a GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education), which is mainly taken by students when they are aged 16. Since the system was introduced in 1988, the proportion of students who achieved the standard pass grade of C/4 increased from 41.9 percent to a pre-2020 peak of 69.8 percent in 2011. After that peak, the pass rate remained relatively stable, fluctuating between 69.5 percent and 66.6 percent in 2017, before the unique circumstances brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic saw pass rates suddenly jump to 76.3 percent in 2020 and 77.1 percent in 2021. The proportion of GCSE entries awarded a high pass grade of A/7 also reached their highest levels in 2021 at 28.9 percent, with only 20 percent of entries being awarded this grade in 2017. Although pass rates have varied in recent years, a consistent fact is that girls have had a higher pass rate than boys since the introduction of GCSEs in the late 1980s. The gap between female and male students is even more pronounced when looking at higher pass rates, with approximately nine percent more female GCSE entries achieving an A/7 or higher than male entries in 2021.

Interesting statistics

In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the 32 most important statistics relating to "Education in the UK".


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