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Showing posts from November, 2014

Does lifelong learning perpetuate inequalities in educational opportunities?

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by Dirk Van Damme
Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress division, Directorate for Education and Skills
More than 40 years ago, the former French Prime Minister Edgar Faure and his team published one of the most influential educational works of the 20th century: “Learning to Be”, better known as the “Rapport Faure”, in which he mainstreamed the idea of lifelong learning. In Faure’s view, lifelong education was to become the leading educational policy principle for the future. Indeed, it became a powerful, evocative notion, nurturing dreams about “learning societies” in which people’s entire lives would be filled with opportunities to learn.
In the lifelong learning discourse, especially in its more optimistic variants in the late 20th century, there was a strong social equity argument. By creating more and better learning opportunities later in life, this argument went, the inequities in education that marked the first 25 years of a person’s life could be corrected or compensate…

Trust is all we need…

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by Lucie Cerna
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills


Trust is the glue that holds societies together. It is essential for most social and economic relations. Since the beginning of the economic crisis, OECD countries have been under pressure to restore trust in their institutions, especially in their governments. In a 2013 Gallup Poll, the average trust in government across OECD countries was only 42%. But there is also some good news. Citizens retain a high level of trust in their education systems (67%), health care (69%) and local police (72%) though trust levels vary across countries. The OECD’s New Approaches to Economic Challenges  and the forthcoming Trust Strategy both seek to guide member states on how to rebuild trust in their institutions in a post-crisis world.

But what is trust? It is not easily defined due to its multifaceted character. Trust can be an expectation, an interaction, a belief, an emotion or a social coordination mechanism. Several forms of trust exis…

What PISA can – and can’t – tell us about adults’ skills

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by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Directorate for Education and Skills

Can PISA results predict the quality of a country’s labour force one decade later? To find out, we compared some of the results from the PISA 2000  and PISA 2003tests with results from the 2012 Survey of Adult Skills (a product of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, or PIAAC). As we explain in this month’s PISA in Focus, we found that those countries where 15-year-old students achieved high scores in PISA were also the countries whose populations of young adults scored at high levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy a decade after they had participated in PISA.

While, in general, countries tend to maintain the same level of performance in literacy and numeracy as they had achieved in reading and mathematics a decade earlier, PISA results don’t tell the whole story. For example, in Ireland, 15-year-olds performed well above the average score in reading in PISA 2000, but the same …

A chance to design the way forward for education

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by Michael Ward
Senior Policy Analyst, the Development Co-operation Directorate

Want to get involved in shaping the future of education? As the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) reach their 2015 deadline, several international groups, including the OECD, are formulating a new set of goals and targets for sustainable development… and we’d like to know what you think.

The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG), a UN-appointed task force, has proposed an agenda for development that includes goals for education, and educators from around the world have developed a set of specific education and learning targets that are closely aligned with that agenda.

The task now is to develop indicators so that progress towards achieving these new goals can be monitored.

To that end, a Technical Advisory Group, co-ordinated by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and including members from the Education for All Global Monitoring Report, the OECD, UNESCO, UNICEF and the …

Under the radar? Professional education and training

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by Simon Field
Senior Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills



In centrally planned economies in the former Soviet bloc, apartments and housing came in rigid standard sizes - there was little choice. The same was true of cars. So households had little choice, and provision was dominated by the supply-side. 
We are quick to see the inefficiencies in those arrangements, we who have become so used to the idea of choice over everything. But oddly enough, education systems sometimes operate a bit like a centrally planned economy.  The most visible post-compulsory qualifications, come in standard sizes: two to four years of upper secondary education, and three to four years for a bachelors programme. Often this sequence is seen as the 'royal road' for a young person.
But out there in the labour market, modern economies are generating demands for skills that are every bit as diverse as our varying needs for housing or road transport. These demands come in chunks of different size…

Excellence through Equity

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by Max Rashbrooke
Journalist, SGI News

In social terms, it’s essential to invest in education.  A recent OECD report How was Life?, looking at global well-being since 1830 finds that, in terms education, there has been a massive improvement.  A lack of educational opportunities creates a vicious circle, in which those unable to get a decent education are denied opportunities for social betterment, the socially disadvantaged then struggle to access education, and so on. Breaking this vicious circle not only improves the lives of individuals; it helps maintain the social fabric. At the same time, it makes good economic sense to nourish every child’s talent, so that they grow up to be productive members of the workforce.

In its assessment of equitable education, the Bertelsmann Stiftung new study “Social Justice in the EU – A Cross-national Comparison" has ranked all 28 European Union countries’ educational policies in several dimensions. The extent to which children’s socio-economic s…

School size: A literature review

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by Deborah Nusche
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills

How big should schools be?

Is bigger better? Or do all the best things come in small packages? For education systems, the question of how school size influences quality and efficiency has long been an important issue. It has become especially pertinent in recent decades, as fiscal pressures and a falling school population in rural areas have meant that countries are looking for the best way for their schools to be effective.

A new OECD working paper on school size policies, published today, shows that there are many ways in which school size may influence learning environments. Small schools make personal contact easy and are often strongly defended by local communities, while larger schools can provide more options to meet a diverse range of interests and needs. Sometimes, due to demographic or geographical challenges, there may be little choice regarding decisions on school size. But disadvantages can be offset, whethe…

Lessons for the UK

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by Ken Manson 
Co-ordinator (Communications), UK Commission for Employment and Skills

Simon Field is an expert on the comparative analysis of vocational education and training (VET) systems. He leads the OECD’s policy review of VET systems, and is lead author on the OECD’s VET policy publications. I spoke with him about the upcoming launch of the Skills Beyond School review of post-secondary VET systems based on studies in 20 OECD countries.

Skills Beyond School Synthesis Report will be published on the 13th November, and will hold its publication launch at the VET Conference at the Skills Show at the NEC in Birmingham. For information on how to attend, see the Vocational Education and Training Conference website.

Ken Manson: Could you talk a little bit about the background to the report and some of the individual country studies you've done that have fed into this synthesis? 

Simon Field: We have done a lot of work on vocational education and training (VET) at the upper secondary sch…

Addressing inequities in the Slovak Republic through evaluation and assessment

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by Claire Shewbridge
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills

It is taken for granted in OECD countries nowadays that the vast majority of children and young people have access to education, regardless of their wealth or background. However, despite this great achievement, in many countries, the socio-economic background of children will still have a large impact on how well they succeed at school.

In the Slovak Republic, there are considerable equity challenges, and a very clear link between students’ socio-economic background and their educational achievement. The educational differences between rural areas and cities are significant, regional disparities are more pronounced than in other OECD countries, and the educational outcomes of the Roma minority are particularly poor. This has a lasting impact on a child’s life, as the reduced risk of unemployment for Slovak men and women with upper secondary education is particularly strong when compared internationally. These regional …

Schools Call for Improvement through Strong Leadership

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by Marie-Amélie Doring Serre
Trainee, Directorate for Education and Skills 

Every organisation needs a strong leader to get a sense of direction, to set and achieve specific goals. Howard Gardner defines a leader as "an individual (or, rarely, a set of individuals) who significantly affects the thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviours of a significant number of individuals". Being a leader clearly involves a good understanding of human nature, no matter what the area of leadership.
School leaders are the connection between teachers, students and their parents or guardians, the education system and the wider community in which a school exists. Because their central role is combined with rising expectations of schools and schooling in a century characterised by technological innovation, migration and globalisation, we understand that school leaders can no longer be simple managers. The increasing demands of education stakeholders require that these leaders manage human and material…