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Showing posts from May, 2014

Understanding Employer Engagement in Education

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by Anthony Mann
Director of Policy and Research, Education and Employers Taskforce, London, UK

Across the world, governments are asking themselves how can they close the gap between the worlds of education and employment? How can they better engage employers in the work of schools?

While hardly a new phenomenon, the attention of policy makers and commentators has grown significantly over the last decade.  It is a policy which has won the recent attention and the strong endorsement from the OECD – in its key 2010 strategic review of vocational education, Learning for Jobs – from European Union agencies (CEDEFOP and InGenious) – and from an influential team at Harvard University (Pathways to Prosperity).  In England, the main political parties no longer argue whether a period of one or two weeks work experience should be a mandatory element of secondary education, but at what age placements should best be undertaken.

Employer engagement has become rapidly established within global priori…

Are university students taking less time to graduate?

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



University is both a formative and enjoyable period in a young person’s life. Some who can afford to postpone their entry into the job market like it so much that they spend many years studying for a degree. Others have to repeat courses and semesters to succeed. Traditionally university programmes are designed as long and demanding trajectories, especially within Europe. In a paradigm of higher education, oriented towards the selection of the future elite, the length of study in itself works as a selection tool.

With massification of higher education from the 1970s onwards, as well as changes in the purpose and social functions of universities, the length of study became a policy issue. Each year of an individual’s study required  a significant public investment, therefore the time spent acquiring a degree became a budgetary concern. Moreover, time spent at colleges and unive…

The OECD Tohoku School: Moving forward together

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Interview with Kohei Oyama and Yoko Tsurimaki, Students of the OECD Tohoku School Project

During a break from the OECD Forum, two students (11th grade and 12th grade) from the OECD Tohoku School Project shared their learning experiences with Cassandra Davis and Meredith Lunsford of educationtoday. They began by explaining the student-designed OECD Tohoku School logo. Like many things in Japan, every element of the logo has a significant meaning. The 15 multi-coloured arrows piercing through the bull’s-eye represent the 15 regions of Japan touched by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011. Each arrow carries a unique colour to represent the individually diverse personalities that the respective regions hold. The tri-coloured rings surrounding the arrows represent the past, present and future of Japan. The most significant facet of the logo is the individual arrows pointing upwards from right to left, following Japanese calligraphy. This is meant to represent each region’s path r…

Education in the 21st Century: Five lessons from China

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by Dr. Catherine Yan Wang
National Institute of Education Sciences

China has redesigned its education system since embarking on opening up the country and implementing reforms in the latter half of the 70s. The journey of change started from an ethos of “Orientation Towards Modernisation, Orientation Towards the Future, and Orientation Towards the World”, created during the late 70s, which went through a three-decade long reflection and debate on quality-oriented education (versus examination-oriented education). It  gained momentum in 2001 with an Action Plan for Invigorating Education for the 21st Century, and resulted in the ground-breaking Basic Education Curriculum Reform that profoundly changed education philosophy, content and pedagogy for education from Grade 1-12. After three decades, not only has China achieved universal access to basic education, Shanghai also became a top-performer in the PISA 2009 round of tests. And the changes continue. Although there are still many chal…

Is more time spent in the classroom helpful for learning?

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



In OECD countries, between the ages of 6 and 15 – this is the age-bracket covered by compulsory education, including primary and lower secondary education – children are supposed to spend their days at school. All countries attach great value to schooling and expect children to learn the foundation skills during their time spent in formalised instruction. Therefore, one would expect there to be a shared view on how much time exactly children should spend in school.

The most recent issue of the Education Indicators in Focus series shows however that there is actually no common view. The data on the total number of instructions hours in primary and lower secondary education per country (see chart above) show a surprising variation in the number of hours OECD countries expect children to be at school. The OECD average total intended instruction time is 7 751 hours, but the instru…

The Great Gatsby Curve: Does it really exist and is education the key?

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by John Jerrim
Thomas J. Alexander Fellow, Directorate for Education and Skills

Income inequality is high and rising in a number of developed and developing countries. There are many potential economic, social and political consequences of this. But perhaps none are more worrisome than the possibility that rising income inequality will limit educational and economic opportunity in the next generation.

This supposed relationship between income inequality and intergenerational mobility has become widely known as the ‘Great Gatsby Curve.’ It is commonly shown using this graph with “Economic mobility” (differences in the chances of “making it” in life between individuals from rich and poor backgrounds) tending to be lower in countries that are more economically unequal.

This finding has caught the imagination of important public policymakers worldwide. It has been widely cited by high ranking public policymakers, best-selling authors  and Nobel Prize winning academics. But does this Great …

Why policy makers should care about motivating students

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by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Directorate for Education and Skills


What’s in it for me? Positive answers to that ubiquitous (and often crass) question may actually make a fundamental difference in how students learn. As this month’s PISA in Focus explains, students who are highly motivated to learn mathematics because they believe it will help them later on score better in mathematics – by the equivalent of half a year of schooling – than students who are not highly motivated.

Most students recognise that learning mathematics is important for their future studies and careers. Indeed, 75% of students agree or strongly agree that making an effort in mathematics is worth it because it will help them in the work that they want to do later on; 78% agree or strongly agree that learning mathematics can improve their career prospects; 66% agree or strongly agree that they need mathematics for what they want to study later on; and 70% agree or strongly agree that learning many things in mathematics…

OECD Education GPS: The world of education at your fingertips

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by Jean Yip,
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills

Today the OECD launched the “Review education policies” strand of the Education GPS, the online source for education data, research and analysis.

The “Review education policies” tool provides you with quick and easy access to the OECD’s extensive knowledge base of education. Its innovative visual network provides a new and exciting way to explore the world of education. Clear and concise key insights and policy options are already available for a wide range of topics. Related publications and links allow you to learn more about the OECD’s work on education. Keep checking back as the available knowledge base keeps growing!

The “Analyse by country” and “Explore data” parts of the Education GPS continue to give you the latest OECD data and statistics on education. Explore key indicators from Education at a Glance 2013, the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012 and the OECD Skills Survey. Come back at the e…

Poorly skilled adults: a neglected factor in income inequality

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



The rise of income inequality in OECD countries, especially from 1985 onwards, is now a well-documented fact, and a reason for much concern among policy-makers and economists. The Gini coefficient of income inequality in 16 OECD countries with available data has risen from .286 in 1985 to .316 in 2010. The concept of ‘inclusive growth’ suggests that without finding an adequate and effective policy response to increasing inequality future sustainable economic growth might also be jeopardised. However, the causes and underlying mechanisms behind the increase in inequality are less clear. A new paper based on data from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) hints to the role skills play in the puzzle behind income inequality.

At first sight, this seems a bit enigmatic. In recent decades huge investments have been made to improve the education and training of citizens in OECD countrie…