It's important to point out that this is a huge generalisation and, of course, there were/are exceptions to the rule. However, I think, overall, the gap is not an educational one - or level of smartness even - but rather one of attitude. As long as that factor remains, the UK hasn't got a hope in hell of climbing the table, never mind becoming number one.
Youth unemployment is a tragic reality whatever the circumstance, but there is something especially unsavoury about young people who have been sold on the graduate life ideal, only to end up without a job and in debt. The mismarketing of higher education is one of the least commented-upon scandals of our time.
While some of the latest suggestions from the Department of Education which seem to be rolling out at the same rate as spam emails are interesting, not to mention surprising, what seems to be overlooked is an appreciation of the impact that the e-age is having on the way we learn, the way we communicate, the way we function and the way we live.
Dr Maggie Atkinson, the Children's Commissioner for England, was reported in The Huffington Post as saying that students should no longer be excluded for "minor infringements" such as wearing jewellery or incorrect school uniform, and that exclusions should only be implemented to protect safety and learning.
This is of interest to anyone who teaches Personal, Social, Health and Economics subjects, including Sex and Relationships, and Citizenship. Did a shudder run through you when Nadine Dorries made the latest - and not the last - assault on gender equality with her proposal for abstinence education for girls only? Please speak up now