Scientific literacy among school children not high enough to enable lifelong learning, says report

July 4, 2002

Brussels, 03 July 2002

Between seven per cent and 32 per cent of 15 year olds do not have enough scientific literacy to enable them to continue learning about science throughout their life, according to a new report which draws from information about 35 European countries.

The first European report on indicators of lifelong learning was compiled by the Working group on quality indicators of lifelong learning. The group comprises representatives from 35 countries, the Organisation for economic cooperation and development (OECD), the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organisation (UNESCO) and the European Commission.

It examines the quality of lifelong learning in four central areas, and concludes that Europe is not performing adequately in the first of these areas:

- skills, competencies and attitudes;
- access and participation;
- resources for lifelong learning;
- strategies and systems.

The report shows that not all countries are well positioned for successful lifelong learning involving the whole population. For example, with regard to attainment levels of 15 years olds, in literacy, mathematics and science:

  • between 7% and 35% of 15 year-olds have been found to be inadequately prepared for engaging in a lifelong learning process in relation to their reading literacy skills.
  • in the domain of numeracy, between 3% and % could be expected to experience difficulties with subsequent learning activities requiring numerical skills.
  • in respect of scientific literacy, between 7% and 32% could be considered lacking in the requisite skills and knowledge for productive lifelong learning in this area.

'If Europe is to achieve the goals set by the European Councils in Lisbon and Barcelona to make our continent a competitive knowledge based economy and a world quality reference by 2010, important far reaching reforms must now be introduced in most of our countries to make lifelong learning a reality,' said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Education and Culture, in response to the report. 'I hope that this first report on quality indicators of lifelong learning will serve as a useful tool to accelerate these reforms.'.

The report also illustrates the diversity in the percentage of GDP invested in education different European countries. In 2001, Greece invested 3.52 per cent of GDP in education, while Sweden invested 8.33 per cent. The EU average meanwhile amounts to 5.03 per cent.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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