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Showing posts from January, 2012

Improving equity in education: a critical challenge

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Improving equity in student outcomes remains a critical challenge for every country in the OECD.  Even those countries with the lowest levels of inequity must still be concerned with gaps in outcomes that are not related to students’ motivation and capacity, while in other countries the inequities are so large as to pose a fundamental challenge to ongoing security and prosperity.

The new report, Equity and Quality in Education: Supporting Disadvantaged Students and Schools, provides a cogent analysis and many ideas for addressing these issues.  The report provides a blueprint for any country that wishes to make genuine progress in promoting equity while also improving quality.  These ideas are well grounded in the best available research evidence (though in some cases that evidence is not as strong as one would want, simply due to insufficient research on many important educational issues).

The larger issue is whether countries will have the will and skill to make these changes.  As…

Higher education: an insurance policy against global downturns

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by J.D. LaRock
Senior Analyst, Innovation and Measuring Progress Division, Directorate for Education
With all the economic turmoil of the past several years, have you ever wished you could buy an insurance policy to protect against the effects of a global recession?  Well, such a insurance policy already exists – and it’s called higher education.  During the first two years of the global economic crisis, in country after country, people with a tertiary (higher) education were much less likely to be unemployed, much more likely to be participating in the labour force, and more likely to have higher earnings, compared to their less-educated counterparts.

These and other findings are discussed in the first issue of the OECD’s new education brief series, Education Indicators in Focus.

As the crisis ramped up in 2008 and continued in 2009, unemployment rates increased across the board in OECD countries. However, the impact was much greater for adults without an upper secondary education. A…

Early Childhood Education and Care: a priority investment

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by Kristin Halvorsen
Minister of Education, Norway

As Minister of Education in Norway I am happy to be hosting the OECD roundtable conference Starting Strong: Implementing policies for high-quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). Providing all children with high quality early childhood education and care is an investment in the future and provides a great benefit for both the individual and society.

The conference brings together ministers and senior officials, responsible for early childhood education and care in 36 OECD countries from around the world. Almost 200 participants have registered for the conference, which includes also researchers and stakeholders, and the conference will also be webcast live starting 09h00 (local time) on 24 January 2012. The theme of the roundtable conference is well linked to the Norwegian efforts to ensure high quality in our ECEC institutions.

“Let’s think big about our smallest children!”,  that has been my personal slogan for the politic…

Boys, girls and hypertext

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by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Indicators and Analysis Division, Directorate for Education

Computers, cell phones and tablets are now so much a part of our lives that we can’t even remember what life was like before them—much less figure out how we managed to get through the day without consulting them. The youngest students now surf the Net with the skill of cyber beach boys and text friends as easily as waving at them.

Or do they?

In 2009 PISA conducted a groundbreaking survey of digital literacy  among 15-year-old students. PISA wanted to find out whether boys and girls are as ready for the digital age as they—and we—think they are. As the latest issue of PISA in Focus shows, while many students may have the technological skills, not all have the cognitive skills to fully capitalise on technology to access, manage, integrate and evaluate digital information.

On average, PISA results show that student performance in digital reading is closely related to performance in print reading, meani…

Starting Strong: The people helping to raise young children

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by Kelly Makowiecki
Assistant to the Early Childhood Education and Care Project, Directorate for Education

For my generation, the concept of a stay-at-home parent seems like something of the past. And even if you want to stay home for the first few years of your child’s life, who can afford not to work these days? So what are kids up to during those precious, formative early years after their parents go back to work and before compulsory school begins around age 5 or 6? At some point, a lot of them enter into a formal education or care setting and are the responsibility of someone other than their family.

Who are the people we turn to for help in the immensely important role of raising our young children? And can we value them as much as we depend on them?

That’s difficult to judge when, for starters, the early childhood education and care (ECEC) workforce consists of a wide variety of actors with an equally wide range of qualifications.  Those working as preschool/kindergarten teacher…

Starting Strong: what should children learn?

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by Matias Egeland
Consultant, OECD Directorate for Education


In Norway, where I’m from, we believe children have the right to progress at their own speed, and enjoy a childhood of pleasure and freedom. The fundamental idea, shared by several Nordic countries, is that childhood is the time to have fun, as opposed to being in school (or anything resembling school for that matter). Admittedly, this sounds very nice, if not a bit idealistic.

While it is important for children to be just children, the early years are also especially formative and important for children to develop skills and competencies . The importance and value of good quality care and education for children is becoming increasingly clear, and have shown to impact things as diverse as creativity and life-time earnings.

As the early years represent a crucial chance to shape and impact children and their future development, the key question is which traits and abilities do we want children to acquire and harness?

The curr…

Making education reform happen

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by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Indicators and Analysis Division, Directorate for Education


This is the time of year when a lot of us resolve to commit ourselves to self-improvement plans of greater or lesser magnitude. Spend more time reading? On the list. Eat better? Ditto. Reform the education system? Whoa—nice idea; but isn’t that a bit too ambitious? 

What is it about education reform that all-too-often turns resolve into sighs and resignation? If countries really want to keep that resolution, here’s a suggestion: invite teachers to get involved.

On the face of it, it seems elementary: The best—meaning the most sustainable and effective—reforms happen when those who are directly affected support them. You don’t have to take our word for it; just look at how some of the best-performing and rapidly improving school systems got that way. Take Finland,  for example–one of the consistently best-performing OECD countries in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) since the…