Bob Geldof has revealed he “couldn’t believe” England’s decision to opt out of a new Progamme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) test of global understanding.
The anti-poverty campaigner argues that England's pupils would have "done very well" in the tests, being sat for the first time this year, saying they are just as engaged as the "Band Aid generation" that his campaigning enthused in the 80s.
“In my mind, Britain is the most tolerant and the most aware society I move in," Mr Geldof told Tes.
Comparing England with other countries, he said: “The general benchmark of conversation, predictably in the bar or on the Tube or something, has got a far greater awareness or depth of understanding of an issue. So I don’t know what [England's education ministers] would be afraid of. They have done very well in OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which runs Pisa] rankings in other areas, particularly education.”
The new test of “global competence” set by the OECD for its Pisa programme aims to assess teenagers' "capacity to examine local, global and intercultural issues, to understand and appreciate the perspectives and world views of others, to engage in open, appropriate and effective interactions with people from different cultures, and to act for collective wellbeing and sustainable development".
Last week, Andreas Schleicher, head of education at the OECD, suggested England declined to take part in the assessment because of fears it thought “we’re maybe not ready for it”.
But Mr Geldof, who rallied millions of people to raise money to tackle the famine in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s, said any such fears were unjustified.
Asked if the current young generation is less concerned about global issues than that of the Band Aid era, the rock star said: “No, I don’t think there is less concern on global issues.”
'The hashtag generation'
However, he raised concerns about the changing way young people take action in the era of social media.
“You can just see the hashtag generation, you can see the responses to the various things,” he said. “The problem is that by venting your spleen into cyberspace you believe that that is consequential unto itself. It’s not. It's cyber wanking.
“Unless there’s an actual tangible result at the end of it, that sense of satisfaction you’re talking about that people have achieved with the Band Aid, Live Aid experience is missing save for the fact that ‘Yeah I agree with you’ and then you go on your way and nothing happens.”
He added: “Disengaged from the issues? No. They think that by simply going online, that’s enough, and they have to be disabused.
“It’s old school. You get out and you knock on doors, you gather about an actual community rather than a cyber community. These issues are tangible and real and they must be dealt with in a tangible way.”