CHARLES GRAHAM - All work and no play

I’M no happier than anyone else that Britain seems to be slipping further and further down the world rankings based on school performance in the three Rs and science.

It seems astonishing in this sophisticated era of ours, with all the generations of experience in getting the educational basics right, that we still produce so many teenagers who can barely draw their name in the sand with a stick after 12 years in the classroom.

It doesn’t help that we seem to celebrate dimness so long as it is covered in a veneer of charm. Look no further than I’m a Celebrity favourite Joey Essex for evidence of that.

But while our government and schools clearly need to return to the blackboard for fresh (or even mistakenly rejected) ideas of how better to teach our children to read, write and count, we have now seen that it is possible to take educational zeal too far.

I looked on in amazement bordering on horror this week at the lengths the South Koreans have been going to top the international performance table.

News reports showed even its primary school youngsters attending up to 13 hours of lessons a day. Some are returning home late at night (11pm!) just in time to go to bed after a hasty meal before getting up at the crack of dawn to start the whole sadistic process again.

’Tis said that British childhoods are being stolen by sex and violence all too readily available to them on computer and television screens.

But it strikes me that these oriental children are being equally deprived of their innocent fun by being turned into bleary-eyed, personality-lite automata. I think I’d rather have Joey Essex, and that’s really saying something.