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Showing posts from December, 2013

Cutting education expenditure

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by Dirk Van Damme
Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress division, Directorate for Education and Skills


Education systems, for the greatest part funded by the public purse, have a symbiotic relationship with economic tides: they blossom in booming years, they suffer in recessions. Educational needs however behave exactly in the opposite way: they expand when the economy shrinks. The recent recession, probably the biggest many of us have seen in our lifetimes, again provides ample evidence for this. And the relationship is now even more pronounced than ever before. Education and skills have moved into the centre of economic life, as economies become increasingly knowledge- and skills-based. Unemployment clearly separates the educational haves and have-nots, with the unskilled paying the price for the recession. As a result, people want to invest more in education, stay longer in schools, and postpone their entry into the labour market, because work doesn’t offer much of an altern…

Leadership for 21st Century Learning

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by Marco Kools
Analyst, Innovation and Measuring Progress Division, Directorate for Education and Skills


Against a backdrop of increasing globalisation, rapid technological innovation and a growing knowledge workforce, few would dispute that the primary task for management today is the leadership of change. The education sector is no exception to this.

Contemporary learning environments (schools) must be able to keep pace with the changing times, while delivering on their core task - equipping students with the knowledge and skills for life in the 21st century. This requires leadership to set the direction, taking responsibility for putting learning at the centre and keeping it there. Sounds simple, but what does it really mean in practice? Where does one start? Who does what?

These are some of the challenging questions that the recently released OECD publication Leadership for 21st Century Learning responds to. The publication builds on the prominence given to the concept of learning…

A new direction for education reform in China

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by Yan Wang, Ph.D
National Institute for Education Sciences, Beijing

China has worked hard to expand access and improve the quality of education by trying many alternative approaches to educate more people, both by drawing on the experiences of other countries or retrieving historical practices. The progress to date has been tremendous, with nine-year basic education universalised, mass higher education attained, and youth and adult illiteracy eradicated. The recent 3rd plenary session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee announced a number of strategies to address social and economic challenges faced by China. These strategies will, among other things, frame the future direction of Chinese education. The purpose of the new reforms is not only to pursue further development, but also address the problems arising from the rapid changes made over the last two decades.

Historically, 3rd plenary sessions have been milestones of major political, economic and social r…

Let’s talk about skills

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by Joanne Caddy
Senior Analyst, Skills Beyond School Division, Directorate for Education and Skills



In a quiet room in downtown Oslo, a group of people are in deep discussion.

Gathered around a table strewn with markers, glue and crumpled paper, their assignment is to help Kari. The card they have been given describes her as a 17-year-old drop-out who wants to find a job. They have 15 minutes to fill in a poster with concrete advice on how Kari could navigate her way through the tangled undergrowth of unemployment services, career guidance and training programmes to achieve her goal.

Aptly named, the “Skills Obstacle Course” is just one of the many interactive exercises which the OECD has designed to generate in-depth and structured discussions among highly diverse stakeholders – drawn from businesses, trade unions, education institutions and student associations – together with broad inter-ministerial teams responsible for various facets of national skills policy. Nourished by compa…

Students at the centre: promoting effective evaluation and assessment in Northern Ireland

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by Claire Shewbridge
Analyst, Early Childhood and Schools Division, Directorate for Education and Skills

“Students do not want to be ‘passive objects’ of evaluation and assessment, they want to be actively involved”. When we heard the representative of the European School Student Unions say this at a conference in April, we smiled. We had just returned from eight days in Northern Ireland where we’d been really impressed with how much students knew about their assessment. Of course, we only got the chance to visit a few schools, but although each school had a distinct approach to assessment, they all shared a commitment to getting the students involved.

As explored in a new OECD report on evaluation and assessment policies in Northern Ireland, current policy, together with the curriculum, promotes the engagement of students in their own evaluation by encouraging them to talk about, review and make improvements to their work, as well as to ask questions and to respond to others’ points …

Are the Chinese cheating in PISA or are we cheating ourselves?

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by Andreas Schleicher
Deputy Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD's Secretary General


Whenever an American or European wins an Olympic gold medal, we cheer them as heroes. When a Chinese does, the first reflex seems to be that they must have been doping; or if that’s taking it too far, that it must have been the result of inhumane training.

There seem to be parallels to this in education. Only hours after results from the latest PISA assessment showed Shanghai’s school system leading the field, Time magazine concluded the Chinese must have been cheating. They didn't bother to read the PISA 2012 Technical Background Annex, which shows there was no cheating, whatsoever, involved. Nor did they speak with the experts who had drawn the samples or with the international auditors who had carefully reviewed and validated the sample for Shanghai and those of other countries.

Others were quick to suggest that resident internal migrants m…

What we learn from the PISA 2012 results

by Andreas Schleicher
Deputy Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD's Secretary General

International comparisons are never easy and they aren’t perfect. But PISA shows what is possible in education, and it helps countries see themselves in the mirror of the education opportunities and results delivered by the world’s leaders in education. Even those who claim that the relative standing of countries in PISA mainly reflects social and cultural factors must now concede that improvement in education is possible. In mathematics, countries like Brazil, Mexico, Tunisia and Turkey rose from the bottom; Italy, Portugal and the Russian Federation advanced to the OECD average or close to it; Germany and Poland rose from average to good; and Shanghai-China and Singapore have moved from good to great. Indeed, of the 65 participating countries, 40 saw improvement in at least one of PISA’s three subject areas. These countries did not change their cu…