Preliminary results of the 2011 census for England and Wales indicate that those of the population who were taught metric at school now comfortably outnumber those who were taught Imperial.
On 16 July 2012, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) issued preliminary results from the 2011 census for England and Wales. It says that the median age of the population – where half the population is younger and half is older – was 39, with the median age for men being 38 and for women 40:
We need to relate this to the changeover of teaching in schools to metric.
The impact of metrication on the syllabuses for primary and secondary schools was receiving consideration as early as 1968, and by Autumn 1974, the teaching in all primary schools in England and Wales had switched to metric. Everyone born in September 1969 or later should have been taught in metric throughout their school career. Higher education was quicker off the mark, with examinations for engineering subjects requiring solutions in SI units from 1971 onwards.
Using the chart of population by age and sex that accompanies the BBC report (and is included in the summary ONS report), and excluding children up to the age of eight who may have not yet been taught any measurement system, the sums look like this (totals in millions):
For the population taught metric
Total population in England and Wales 56.10
Hence population below the median age 28.05
Less children up to the age of 8 -5.53
Plus metric taught aged 39-42 inclusive 3.22
For population taught Imperial
Population above median age 28.05
Less metric taught aged 39-42 inclusive -3.22
The ONS data also shows that the number by which those taught metric in primary school exceeds the number taught Imperial, currently about 900 000, will increase each year by about 1.6 million. By the time the next census results are published in 2022, those born after September 1969 are likely to outnumber those born before by a ratio of 2 : 1.
Successive UK Governments have for many years sought excuses for postponing the metric changeover of road signs. In 2002, the Transport Minister put forward the argument that such a change would be confusing for drivers who had not received a metric education at school. This argument was not heard in Commonwealth countries making the transition to metric measures in the 1970s, and has fallen out of favour here. Conversely, because more than half of the population of England and Wales has not been taught the mysteries of the Imperial system, perhaps the Government will take steps to impose a cut-off date on its continuing use, not just on road signs but throughout the economy.
Metric Views advises that you don’t hold your breath.