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Showing posts from February, 2014

Working to change the mindset for math

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by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Directorate for Education and Skills


What is it about math that strikes fear and trembling in students and adults alike? Perhaps the fault is not in the math, but in ourselves – in how we teach and learn it. Jo Boaler certainly thinks so. She calls mathematics literacy the issue of the 21st century. Even as more companies are looking for people who can use advanced reasoning skills to solve problems, students spend most of their time in math class learning how to compute, she says. Boaler, a British-born professor of mathematics education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and author of several books on teaching and learning mathematics, brings the latest thinking in psychology, particularly the work of Carol Dweck, and neuroscience to bear on her argument that students would be better served if teachers took a multi-dimensional approach to math (including problem solving, reasoning and communicating) rather than a one-dimensional approach (teaching…

Expanding PISA’s circle of influence

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by Barbara Ischinger, Director, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills
and Alejandro Gomez Palma, Analyst, PISA for Development

The enormous worldwide interest in the PISA 2012 results, which were released last December, showed that PISA is now widely accepted as the best measure of student performance we have – and one of the best sources of data that can be used to inform policy decisions about how to improve education systems. Sixty-five countries and economies participated in PISA 2012, but that leaves well over 100 others that either chose not to or believe that participation is out of their reach. We hope that that’s going to change soon.

We’ve just returned from Ecuador where the government agreed – with a sense of pride that was palpable – to participate in our pilot PISA for Development initiative. Eight Latin American countries participated in the latest round of PISA 2012 and we’re keen to add to that number. We’ve briefly mentioned the PISA for Development project in earl…

Inclusive educational innovations in India

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by Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin and Alfonso Echazarra
CERI Innovation Strategy, Directorate for Education and Skills


India has been hailed for being a laboratory of frugal and inclusive innovations. The Tata Nano, the cheapest car in the world, the Aravind Eye Care Hospitals, which fight “avoidable blindness” by giving cheap or free state-of-the-art eye surgery to poor Indians, or the Bharti Airtel, which offers low-rate phone calls, thanks to an innovative business model, are often-cited examples of innovations that make valuable products and services affordable to deprived populations. Just glance at the Honey Bee Network database and you will find a plethora of interesting initiatives targeted to the Indian poor: from the Mitticool, a natural refrigerator made entirely from clay that requires no energy, to the Washing and Exercise Machine, a mechanical, semi-automated, pedal operated washing machine for clothes, the jugaad spirit is ubiquitous.

This drive for inclusive innovation is visib…

Hiroshima – from symbol of human destruction to leader in educational reform

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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


I spent two days in Hiroshima, discussing education reform and global policy trends with prefectural leaders and the academic community. This city, target of a simply unimaginable attack on human mankind 59 years ago, is now the birthplace of some of the World’s most innovative education policies and practices.

No building, no tree and no other remainder of human activity in this city is older than 59 years. As school principal Kadoshima drives by an office tower on our way to his school, he explains this had been the place where his grandmother and two uncles had been burned alive like most other residents of the area, leaving nothing but a shadow on the floor. But I am also told how many of the survivors left wandering between life and death for the ensuing months and years have envied their fate. His father and his uncle were the only ones who re…

What do your parents do for a living? (and should it matter?)

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by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Directorate for Education and Skills


Does where you come from really tell you anything about where you’re going? When it comes to parents’ occupations and students’ performance, the answer is a qualified ‘yes’ – but it also depends on where, geographically, you go to school.

Intrigued? PISA is unveiling a web-based, interactive tool (occupations@pisa2012) that allows anyone to explore and compare the relationship between student performance in reading, mathematics and science and parents’ occupations in PISA-participating countries and economies.

The tool is based on results from PISA 2012. Among many other questions concerning students’ backgrounds, PISA asked participating students what their parents did for a living. Their responses were then coded into an internationally comparable classification that allows for identifying individuals working in similar industries, on similar tasks, with the same types of responsibilities. As this month’s PISA in Focus r…

Skills will power Norway’s future prosperity

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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

While in Oslo last month, I caught a glimpse of what can be achieved when social partners and governments put skills at the top of their respective agendas. This year’s annual conference of Norway’s leading employer organisation was squarely focused on the “Learning Life” and in her opening address Prime Minister Solberg set the stage. “Oil has given Norway prosperity, but it is knowledge that is Norway’s future,” she said, “Jobs will increasingly be knowledge and skills intensive.” 
The fact that the Prime Minister stayed the entire day, joined by her Ministers and most of Norway’s business elite, underlines how determined the Norwegians are to make this happen. Today, we hope to contribute to achieving this vision with the OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report on Norway
This diagnostic report applies the framework of the OECD Skills Strategy to…

Kazakhstan: the dream of better education

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By Mihaylo Milovanovitch
Rapporteur and Team Leader for the OECD Review of Secondary Education in Kazakhstan

Everybody dreams of good things sometimes, of things one wants to do, be, or have. Countries can dream too: of economic prosperity, of peace, of a visa-free travel regime or of a quick way out of a recession…

Kazakhstan dreams of better education. The State Programme for Education Development 2011-2020 notes that by 2020 the country will be highly educated, with a smart economy and highly qualified labour force. The young state has many other dreams, but they all depend on this one dream coming true.

The leadership of the country seems determined and its vision for the future of national education is more than just a wish. It is a comprehensive strategy for a full overhaul of the education sector and its transformation into a carrier of hope for economic, political and socio-cultural prosperity. The price tag of this commendable undertaking is commensurately high. Between 2005 a…

Mathematics for the 21st century

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By Charles Fadel
Founder and Chairman, Center for Curriculum Redesign

Why are mathematics taught? 
From Aristotle, Plato, Al-Khawarizmi, and Al-Kindi, to John Allen Paulos (Temple U.), Paul Ernest, (U. of Exeter), and Eleanor Robson (U. of Oxford), maths thinkers have stated three types of reasons: emotional, cognitive and practical. 

Setting aside the emotional and cognitive reasons, let’s discuss the implications of the practical reasons. Mathematical understanding is crucial for high performance in our personal, public, and work lives. At home, we may want to understand the results of a medical test, or rekindle our child's love of math. As citizens, we may want to judge the rise in carbon-dioxide levels in the air, or the proportion of tax dollars that should go to health, education, or war. At work, we may need to estimate the money, time, and employees for a large project. Finally, mathematics underlies our science, technology, and engineering.  OECD countries spend $236 billion…

Students’ choices today shape tomorrow’s skills pool

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



One of the most decisive decisions taken in the course of a person’s life is choosing the field of study when entering higher education. This decision may be influenced by a variety of factors: family, social and economic background; cultural preferences among peers; values and belief systems; or even moral, political or ideological viewpoints. Preceding choices made during transitions in secondary school, have gradually narrowed the options available. Conflicting messages from employers, labour market agencies, governments and intermediary advisory bodies can impact the choices students make as well.

Nonetheless, students – mostly at the age of 18 – still have a fairly broad range of options to choose from. And today’s students no longer want to be the passive and obedient followers of antecedents, decisions made by others or well-intended advice. This is a decisive moment in…

Don't give up on ‘Education for All’

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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

The well-being of individuals and nations depend on nothing more than on what people know and what they can do with what they know. And if there’s one lesson the global economy has taught us over the last few years, it’s that we cannot simply bail ourselves out of a crisis, that we cannot solely stimulate ourselves out of a crisis and that we cannot just print money our way out of a crisis. Investing in high-quality education is the gateway to better skills, better jobs and better lives.
And yet, the 2014 Global Monitoring Report, the world’s most authoritative source to track progress towards the ‘Education for All’ goals, paints a bleak picture. With the deadline for these goals less than two years away, progress has been insufficient to get close to even a single goal by 2015. To date, just half of young children have access to some form of pre p…

School systems trump family background

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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


There has been much discussion on the extent to which the performance of nations on tests like PISA is shaped by the socio-economic context of families, schools and nations. Surely, economic, social and cultural capital are always an advantage. Owing to advantaged families’ greater capacity to reinforce and enhance the effects of schools, as students from these families attend higher-quality schools and schools are simply better-equipped to nurture and develop children from advantaged backgrounds, school systems tend to reproduce social disadvantage. And that is what the data from PISA have shown.

But there is more to this. There are huge differences across countries in the extent to which individual factors (such as family structure, parents’ job status and immigrant background), school factors (such as how resources are allocated across schools) …