Different, not disabled: Neurodiversity in education

by Tracey Burns
Senior Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills

Feeling out of place. Too big, too short, too wise, too ignorant – these are all situations Gulliver experiences in Jonathan Swift’s classic of English literature. Gulliver’s Travels give us an idea of how important our environment is when it comes to defining ourselves. It also gives us a 19th century look into the very modern concept of diversity.

Diversity in the classroom includes differences in the way students' brains learn, or neurodiversity. Diagnoses of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) have risen dramatically in the last two decades. This is not an issue that is isolated to a few countries: ADHD diagnoses have increased dramatically in Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Similar patterns are seen in the prevalence of ASD, which occurs…

What today’s teachers need to know

by Andreas Schleicher
Director, Directorate for Education and Skills

I’ve often said that the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. How, then, do teachers become really good at their jobs? One important way is by learning from one another – across classes, across schools, and yes, even across countries. That’s why the OECD is a knowledge partner of the 2017 Qudwa Global Teachers’ Forum, which is being held in Abu Dhabi on 7 and 8 October. The Forum is bringing together more than 900 teachers from 83 countries to discuss “Teaching for Tomorrow”.

The focus of the forum couldn’t be more timely. According to reports by the World Economic Forum, one-third of the skillsets required to perform today’s jobs will be entirely redundant by 2020. And experts assert that nearly two-thirds of children entering primary school today will end up working in jobs that do not yet exist. The dilemma for teachers is that the kinds of things that are easiest to teach and e…

Why teaching matters more than ever before

by Stavros Yiannouka, CEO, WISE – World Innovation Summit for Education and Andreas Schleicher, Director, Directorate for Education and Skills

Teaching and learning lie at the heart of what it means to be human. While animals teach and learn from each other through direct demonstration, observation and experience, humans are unique in their ability to convey vast quantities of information and impart skills across time and space. We are also, as far as we know, unique in our ability to engage in and convey our thinking around abstract concepts such as governance, justice and human rights.

Technology has always played an indispensable role in this process. Starting with language and then writing, humanity was able to separate the process of teaching and learning from the constraints of direct demonstration, observation, and experience. The invention of paper and ink, and then the printing press, exponentially increased the quantity of knowledge that could be captured, stored, and dissem…

Closing Italy’s skills gap is everyone’s business

by Andreas Schleicher
Director, Directorate for Education and Skills

Italy is the birthplace of Leonardo, Galileo and Armani. For centuries, skilled Italians have been recognised for their contributions to the world’s art, science, and culture. A relatively small country, with scarce natural resources, Italy today is among the world’s leading industrialised economies and is home to millions of firms, including many small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), who play a prominent role in many key global value chains. So the skills of Italy’s population matter. Not only for their own country, but also for their contribution to the future prosperity and well-being of the global community. 
Italy’s future prosperity depends upon the skills of its people
Today, Italy is facing a skills gap. OECD Surveys measuring the skills of 15 year-olds (PISA) and adults between the ages of 16 and 64 years old (Survey of Adult Skills, PIAAC) have detected a significant shortfall in skills  compared with ot…

Why innovation becomes imperative in education

by Dirk Van Damme 
Head of the Skills Beyond School Division,  Directorate for Education and Skills

Since Harvard economists Goldin & Katz published their ground-breaking book The Race between Technology and Education (2008), education has come face-to-face with the challenges of a world continuously altered by technological innovation. Education is generally perceived to be a laggard social system, better equipped to transmit the heritage of the past than to prepare for the future. This perception is not entirely accurate; OECD/CERI work on Measuring innovation in education (2014) demonstrates that education is a system that is not change-averse.

From a historical perspective, education has adjusted to the needs and opportunities of the 2nd Industrial Revolution, for example by introducing natural sciences into the curriculum – although it took many years for that to happen. Will education have the luxury of time to confront the current wave of technological change and innovation?…

Why it matters if you can't read this

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

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

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…