Showing posts from June, 2012

Higher education: a good long-term investment?

by J.D. LaRock Senior Analyst, Innovation and Measuring Progress Division, Directorate for Education

As any student can attest, pursuing a higher education requires an investment in time, effort – and in a number of OECD countries, significant financial resources.  But the economic costs of higher education go beyond tuition fees.  Because people with higher education tend to have higher earnings, they’re likely to pay more in income taxes and social welfare contributions.  There’s also the “opportunity cost” of foregone earnings when people enter university instead of the labour market.

Given these long-term economic costs, do the long-term economic benefits of having a higher education make it worthwhile?  As the latest issue of the OECD’s brief series Education Indicators in Focus details, analyses based on the most recent year of available data – 2007 for most countries – suggest that the return on investment is very good.

For example, the long-term economic advantage of having a t…

Understanding youth, unemployment and skills in Africa

by Denielle Sachs
McKinsey Social Sector Office

For those working on employment issues, one thing is clear: the tense imbalance between the demands of the labor market and the supply of appropriately skilled workers is reaching its breaking point. Last week, the McKinsey Global Institute launched, The world at work: jobs and skills for 3.5 billion people. The report found that by 2020 there could be as many as 40 million too few high-skill workers and up to 95 million too many low-skill workers out in the job market.
Avoiding such massive imbalances will require a radical approach to accelerate education and skills building, and to boost job creation for less-skilled workers. Anything less and we will see a growing shortage of high-skill workers, persistent joblessness for many low- and middle-skill workers, rising income inequality, and distressingly high rates of youth unemployment. The numbers are clear: by 2030, the world will have as many as 1 billion workers without even secondary…

The role of unions in developing a skilled workforce

by Randi Weingarten
President, American Federation of Teachers

As we slowly recover from the worst economic recession since the 1920s, labour markets around the world remain turbulent. We are facing more social and economic inequality with wages stagnating and many people dropping out of the workforce entirely.

How can the American Federation of Teachers and other trade unions around the world help?

First, unions should be viewed as part of the solution, not as something to overcome. Labour-management collaboration is essential to developing skilled workers and, in turn, to creating better jobs and higher salaries. Workers need to be represented at the bargaining table and—regardless of the trade or profession—unions can be an important partner. That is the key to developing a flexible, smart workforce ready and equipped to be full partners with management.

If our workforce is going to thrive in the 21st century, we need to begin by changing much about our approach to education—from in…

Urban studies

by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Directorate for Education
To many people, the phrase “inner-city schools” is synonymous with crumbling buildings, frustrated teachers, disengaged students, truancy and violence. In some urban areas, though, city schools and the students who attend them flourish. In fact, three of the top five performers in reading in the PISA 2009 survey—Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore—are large cities. So are big cities a boon or a bane for education?

The latest edition of PISA in Focus presents new analyses suggesting that, in some countries, students in large cities—defined as those with over one million inhabitants—score on a par with their top-performing peers in PISA. For instance, students in urban areas in countries like Portugal and Israel, countries that tend to perform around the OECD average in PISA, compare favourably with students in Singapore; and the performance of students in Poland’s urban areas compares easily with that of students in Hong Kong.

But in Be…

A Curriculum for the Next Billion

by Charles Leadbeater
Author of Learning from the Extremes and Innovation in Education: Lessons from Pioneers Around the World, published by Bloomsbury with the support of the The Qatar Foundation’s WISE initiative.
Today, global companies are fascinated by the prospect of what the World Economic Forum calls ‘the next billion’ – the future consumers of the developing world whose income is rising from around $2 a day to between $5 and $7 a day. Most of these people are recently arrived in rapidly expanding cities, often living in the poorest areas: every month about 5 million people in the developing world move to cities.

If we were to look at these families as parents and learners, what kind of education will they be looking for? Or to put it another way, if we were to design a curriculum with ‘the next billion’ what would they want?

Having spent much of the last three years visiting a wide variety of education projects in cities across the developing world, it strikes me that the firs…

Erasing the “bright red dividing line” between education and work

by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Directorate for Education
Central to the OECD Skills Strategy, which was released last week, is the idea that developing people’s skills and ensuring that those skills are used effectively on the job is everybody’s business—governments, employers, employees, trade unions and students. So who better to discuss the business of skills development than a business leader? Phil O’Reilly, Chief Executive of Business NZ, New Zealand’s largest business advocacy group, was in Paris this week to attend the OECD Forum. Calling the Strategy “an immaculate document” that “points out the complexity of what we’re dealing with”, O’Reilly makes a strong case for the importance of developing “soft” skills in today’s global labour market. “We all obsess about mathematics and science skills,” he says, “but cultural skills do matter.”

What do today’s employers look for in prospective employees? According to O’Reilly, businesses want good citizens working for them. “People who can …