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Showing posts from September, 2017

Why it matters if you can't read this

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by Tanja Bastianic
Statistician, Directorate for Education and Skills



Adults who lack basic skills – literacy and numeracy – are penalised both in professional and private life. They are more likely to be unemployed or in precarious jobs, earn lower wages, have more health issues, trust others less, and engage less often in community life and democratic processes.

Basic skills are not complicated. What we measure in the OECD Survey of Adult Skills is the ability to process the information needed to perform everyday tasks – to read the instructions on a bottle of aspirin or to know how many litres of petrol are needed to fill the tank.

In Australia, around three million working-age adults – one in five – currently have low basic skills and are living with the consequences. And if Australia doesn’t tackle this problem, it risks being left behind by countries investing more successfully in the skills of their people, especially in a world where work is undergoing a rapid technology-driven…

Education reform in Wales: A national mission

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by Kirsty Williams AM
Cabinet Secretary for Education, Welsh Government


It’s an exciting time for education in Wales.

This was noted by the OECD earlier this year, when it recognised that government and sector are working closely together with a commitment to improvements that are “visible at all levels of the education system”.

This week, as Wales’s Education Secretary, I published our new action plan for the next four years. Entitled ‘Education in Wales: Our national mission’, it builds on the strong foundations already in place in our system. But we are setting the bar even higher, ambitious as we are in our expectations for our young people, for our teaching profession and for our nation.

As a relatively small country and a still-young democracy, we have too often seen these as challenges rather than opportunities. Through the OECD, we have had the opportunity to learn more about other systems and their reform journeys.

It is true that no two countries or systems are the same. Howe…

Advocating for equality among schools? Resources matter

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by Rose Bolognini
Communications and Publications Co-ordinator, Directorate for Education and Skills


Disadvantaged students don’t have as many resources at home as their advantaged peers so ideally schools would need to compensate by providing more support. However, often schools reinforce social disparities rather than moderate them. The latest PISA in Focus brief  reveals that students in socio-economically disadvantaged schools are less exposed to learning environments and educational resources that matter most for science performance.

In fact, the latest round of PISA is telling. In 50 of the 72 countries and economies that participated, advantaged schools have more access to educational resources specific to science classes. And PISA finds that students perform better in science when schools have qualified science teachers, and high-quality laboratory and other materials for hands-on activities in science classes.

What's more, disadvantaged students benefit more from being exp…

Schools at the crossroads of innovation

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by Dirk Van Damme

Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress Division, Directorate for Education and Skills

In a not so distant past, it was seen as one of the defining features of schools that they isolated learners – and the learning process itself – from the surrounding environment. As so brilliantly described by the French philosopher Michel Foucault in his account of the modern machinery of discipline and power, schools must be secluded time/space settings, far away from the impurities of the contemporary world which would poison the minds and character of children. But also in a more enlightened and emancipatory sense, separating young learners from an often depressing environment was perceived to be the best way to guide them to higher levels of knowledge, skill and wisdom.

Schools and schooling have changed a lot in recent years, but they are still well-defined in terms of the time and space boundaries that separate them from their environment. Some modern progressive pedago…

Entering the “black box”: Teachers’ and students’ views on classroom practices

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by Pablo Fraser 
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills
Noémie Le Donné
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills


“What happened in school today?” is a question that many parents across the world ask their children when they get home. Many parents also attend school meetings in order to understand how their child’s learning is developing. They talk with both children and teachers because they know that they are the best (and often only) source of information about what is happening in the classroom. At the same time, many teachers would like to know about how other teachers teach, both in their own country and abroad.

The truth is that what happens in the classrooms still often remains an open question for those outside it.  Research has shown that the practices used in the classroom are the most important factor affecting students’ outcomes. In other words, it is the interactions between teachers and students that, ultimately, shape the learning environment. Thus, it becomes …

Which careers do students go for?

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by Marie-Helene Doumet
Senior Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills


Career decisions are wrought in complexities. Many students start by looking at their interests, selecting a career in line with their personal affinities or aspirations. They will consider their own self-beliefs in their capacity to perform and succeed in a given career, and then factor in labour market prospects, employment, earnings, and the possibilities to progress in their chosen profession over a lifetime.

But career decisions are not only about students’ choices: they also interact with a number of public policy objectives, such as making education systems more efficient, aligning skills to the demands of the labour market, and helping improve social equity. Some countries have sought to promote certain fields or pathways over others through financial incentives or by opening access. Conversely, other fields impose highly selective admissions processes. As students are confronted with more possibilitie…

Building trust in exams

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by Andreas Schleicher
Director, Directorate for Education and Skills


Quality high-stakes exams have always been one of the most reliable predictors of the performance of an education system. They signal what matters for educational success and they ensure fairness and transparency in the gateways to the next stage of education or to the workforce. But getting the design of exams wrong can hold education systems back, narrowing the scope of what is valued and what is taught, or encouraging shortcuts, cramming and integrity violations. 
So if you are searching for promising practices in this area these days, it is worth having a look at Russia. Surprised? True, for a long time Russian’s had lost trust in exam scores and degrees because of fraud and misconduct in examinations. But for well over a decade, Russia has worked persistently on addressing these issues and its unified state exam now offers one of the most advanced and transparent ways of assessing student learning outcomes at scho…

Back to school time: “Think beyond grades – to life”

Facebook Live session with Andreas Schleicher, head of the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills by Marilyn Achiron, Editor, Directorate for Education and Skills

This back-to-school moment is a great time to grab a few minutes with Andreas Schleicher, head of the Directorate for Education and Skills, to get his thoughts about preparing for – and succeeding in – the school year ahead.

In our Facebook LIVE interview yesterday, he said that “there’s always something interesting happening in school”, and suggested that students “think beyond grades – to life”. Schleicher said of teaching that “there’s probably no tougher job today”.

What is common to the best-performing countries in PISA? According to Schleicher, these countries “believe in the future more than in consumption today; they make an investment in education”; “they believe in the success of every child”; and “they can attract the most talented teachers to the most challenging classrooms”.

We also talked about student anxiet…

Awarding – and imagining – teaching excellence

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by Andreas Schleicher
Director, Directorate for Education and Skills


Tonight, the winners of the Higher Education Academy’s newly launched Global Teaching Excellence Award will be announced. The award is a milestone in advancing the higher education agenda. It’s time for teaching excellence to attain the same status and recognition as academic research, which still seems the dominant metric for valuing academic institutions, whether we look at rankings published in the media or research assessment frameworks or at performance-based funding for research.

There are compelling reasons to change this, and the award makes a start.

Tertiary qualifications have become the entrance ticket for modern societies. Never before have those with advanced qualifications had the life chances they enjoy today, and never before have those who struggled to acquire a good education paid the price they pay today. There are always those who argue that the share of young people entering higher education or ad…