Girls ‘better at co-operating on problems’

When young people study or take exams the results are usually about rewarding their individual achievement.

But when they get into the workplace they will be told about the importance of social skills and the need to co-operate with other people on solving problems.

So are school systems out of step with what is needed by young people?

PISA, which compares students’ abilities in reading, maths and science, has now carried out the world’s first global tests on collaborative problem-solving skills.

As might have been expected, students who are high achievers in academic tests are also likely to be better at problem solving with other people.

They are likely to have the skills in interpreting information and complex reasoning that will help them with any kind of problem solving.

The same holds true across countries. Top-performing countries in academic tests, such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Estonia, Finland and Canada, are also high performers at collaborative problem solving.

But it’s not always the case. Chinese students, who do very well in maths and science, are only average in their collaborative skills.

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As part of a select group of global leaders, Oxford University will be an initial member of the newly formed IBM Q Network. A collaboration of leading Fortune 500 companies, academic institutions and national research labs, the group will work directly with IBM to explore potential practical applications for their quantum computing systems.

While too little is known about quantum information technologies at this stage to enable tangible improvements, the field has the potential to help users to solve problems that are completely impenetrable on conventional supercomputers. Long-term projections suggest that these technologies could bring about game-changing developments, allowing users to understand and predict the properties of complex systems like advanced new materials or drugs.

Oxford and IBM are both dedicating considerable resources to the field, developing both hardware and software solutions for research and commercial applications.