The latest international skills survey, led by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has found that adults in England are performing “significantly lower” than their OECD peers when it comes to problem solving in a technology rich environment.
The OECD’s definition of a technology rich environment is a domain where someone has to use digital technology, communication tools and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others and perform practical tasks.
The report states: “The majority of the population in England now has access to ICT and this new domain recognises its increasing importance in all aspects of people’s lives and its implication for future national policy and planning.
“The competence or skill is the intersection of the capacity to use ICT tools and applications and the cognitive skills to solve problems.”
The test restricted those surveyed to laptop computers with a select number of simulated software applications, such as email, work processing, spreadsheets, databases and websites.
England’s mean score in this area stands at 281, where the OECD average is 283. This puts nine countries above England’s performance: Japan (294), Finland (289), Australia (289), Sweden (288), Norway (286), The Netherlands (286), Austria (284), Denmark (283) and Korea (283).
“England’s mean score for problem solving was significantly lower than the OECD average,” reads the report.
Countries that performed similarly to England include Czech Republic, Germany, Canada, Slovak Republic and Flanders (Belgium).
Countries with significantly lower scores than England include Estonia (278), the United States (277), Republic of Ireland (277), Northern Ireland (275) and Poland (275).
England’s score of 281 places it in the OECD’s Band 1 category (out of a possible four bands), which means that those tested were, for example, able to locate a specific piece of information in a database and assign emails to relevant folders.
The results also found that in England, men scored significantly higher than women - which was the case in every country which participated in the study. Although, the difference was higher than the OECD average.
The report, however, highlights that England’s performance in this area may have been skewed when compared to its peers, because it had a higher proportion of people in older age groups taking the test.
“Although the average score for problem solving in technology-rich environments was lower than the OECD average, this must be seen in the context of the far higher participation in this domain compared with other countries, which was particularly marked among the older age groups,” reads the report.
Elsewhere, England was on a par with other OECD countries when it came to literacy skills, but was outperformed in the numeracy tests.