According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Education at a Glance global report, the UK has one of the highest drop-out rates in the developed world.
The proportion of pupils failing to leave school with five basic GCSEs is now believed to be greater than in Greece, Ireland and Norway.
Andreas Schleicher, author of the OECD's annual education report, said the UK risks lagging behind other countries.
"There are now many countries that have accelerated more and are passing the UK by," he noted.
Comparing British state education with that of other nations, the study found class sizes to be significantly higher than most countries and twice the size of most private schools.
The findings follow research suggesting maths achievement in UK schools has changed little since the 1970s.
Published by King's College London and Durham University, the British Educational Research Association study found children still lack understanding of the subject.
Written by Charlotte Michaels