UK business cannot hope to tackle the ‘onslaught’ from the Far East if more students cannot be persuaded to study science and foreign languages, according to the CBI.
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CBI analysis of government figures shows the number of 16 to 18-year-olds taking A-level physics more than halved (55%) between 1984 and 2004, while the take-up of chemistry declined by a third (33%).
The number of 16 to 18-year-olds studying a language A-level decreased by a fifth between 1999 and 2004, with German and French down 34 and 30% respectively.
Last year, just 451 people in England and Wales took A-level Russian, while 1,677 studied Chinese and 4,650 learned Spanish. The CBI believes these languages will be key to business as globalisation gathers pace.
Sir Digby Jones, CBI director-general, said the strength and future success of the UK economy relied on the education system producing students of a high calibre in disciplines such as science and languages.
"Youngsters need to be equipped with the skills to make their way in the competitive globalised economy of the 21st century and business must have them if it is to meet the onslaught from countries such as China and India,” he said.
“China alone produces almost 300,000 high-quality science and engineering graduates each year.
“Without innovation and the ability to secure advantage, the UK cannot hope to challenge these emerging markets as they invest huge resources into producing top quality graduates," he added.