@OECD International Early Learning Study: Five-year-olds in England outperform their international peers in #numeracy
Young children in England show greater ability to understand numbers and undertake reasoning in mathematics than their international peers, new early learning study shows.
Published today, Thursday 12 March, the first report of its kind has shone a light on how five-year-olds in England are faring internationally in early education, finding that pupils in England have high literacy and memory skills at the beginning of Year 1.
Pupils in England particularly outperformed those from the other participating countries - United States and Estonia - in numeracy skills, including working with numbers, shape and space, measurement and pattern.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), who led the study, described the first five years of a child's life as ‘a period of great opportunity and great risk’ - but findings show that most children in England had some form of early education, where learning at the beginning stages of life is strongly linked to brighter future outcomes in adulthood.
The international findings highlight the importance of early education, reinforcing the government's drive to improve standards at every stage, especially in key skills like reading, numeracy and communication for pupils before they leave their Reception year.
Children’s Minister Vicky Ford said:
“We have a world-class education system, and our dedicated early years professionals are making sure children's learning begins before they arrive at school. This report adds to the evidence about the important benefits of early education on a child's development.
“We are investing £3.6 billion in our early education entitlements in 2020-21 and encouraging parents to support their children’s learning at home before age five. I look forward to working with the sector to keep sure quality at the heart of the early years.”
“As the latest Early Years Foundation stage profile results show, the proportion of all children achieving a good level of development is also improving year on year with 72%, nearly three quarters of children, having achieved a good level of development in 2019, compared to 52% in 2013.”
The study found parents in England were more likely to read to children five to seven days a week and have children’s books at home, compared to the United States or Estonia.
The Government’s Hungry Little Minds campaign is helping to encourage this even further, by giving parents access to video tips, advice and suggested games to support their child's early learning.
The OECD’s findings add to a plethora of evidence supporting positive use of technology to support early learning, reporting that over four in five (85%) of children in England use technology, where there were positive links to better working memory in children.
Last month the Department announced six new early learning apps that have been quality approved by a panel of experts, with a focus on improving children’s literacy, language and communication. These apps cover activities ranging from interactive story books, handwriting exercises using Artificial Intelligence, and educational video games.
The apps – published on the Hungry Little Minds website – are part of the government’s drive to help parents make informed decisions about the use of technology in creating positive learning environments at home.
Caroline Sharp, Research Director at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), said:
“This study helps to increase our understanding about the different factors that can impact on a child’s development. Crucially, it captures the strong interrelationship between early literacy and numeracy, self-regulation and social-emotional development. This provides us with important insights into the nature of children’s early learning.
“The findings also emphasise the importance of a positive and rich home learning environment. Parents can play a key role in their child’s development through relatively quick and regular activities, such as reading with them or having a conversation about their feelings.
“Policymakers should take particular note of the differences between groups identified, notably in relation to socio-economic status, developmental difficulties and low birthweight or premature birth. This information can be used to help inform the support provided to these children, whilst also serving as a useful benchmark to measure progress.”
The OECD’s report will build on the range of evidence informing next steps to boost early learning. This includes reforms to the Early Years Foundation Stage that will be rolled out from September 2021, set to improve children’s early skills in language and vocabulary.
The government is also working to give every child the best start in life, adding to a record investment in childcare and early years education – reaching £3.6 billion in 2020-21 – and giving parents the flexibility they need to be able to balance their work and family lives.
The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 – an international study comparing achievement among participating countries - showed that 15-year-olds in Estonia achieve high scores in reading, maths and science, and Estonia is one of the highest performing OECD countries in all three subjects.