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Showing posts from March, 2014

Higher but also more flexible teacher salaries

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



If one were to ask today’s education ministers which topics were at the forefront of their mind, they would almost certainly refer to the quality of the teaching work force in their country. Countries have been looking towards combination of ‘carrot’ and ‘stick’ policies to address quality concerns regarding teachers. ‘Stick’ policies mainly include strengthening accountability and teacher evaluation procedures, sometimes linked to student achievement measures. But many countries understand that tightening the screws on teachers might not be the best answer;  the attractiveness of the teaching profession also comes into play. They are concerned that they don’t get the most promising students in teacher training, that they don’t recruit the best graduates in the teaching profession, and that many of them leave the profession too soon. And several countries fear being confronted …

Charting the way towards excellence and equity in education

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by Andreas Schleicher
Deputy Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD's Secretary General

Something remarkable is taking place in New Zealand right now: ministers and teacher union leaders from the best-performing and most rapidly improving education systems are making a unique global effort to raise the status of the teaching profession. The agenda of this year’s International Summit on the Teaching Profession focuses on three policy goals: excellence, equity and inclusion. Vital questions are being addressed, such as how can equity be achieved in increasingly devolved education systems, and how can high-quality teachers and leaders be attracted to schools with the greatest needs?

Why are these questions so important? To teachers, parents and young people, these questions may appear remote from the realities of school life; but the Summit’s unique mix of delegates enables both policy and practice to come under the spotlight. Largely as a…

Sweet smarts: fighting the child obesity epidemic

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by Tracey Burns
Analyst and Project Leader, Directorate for Education and Skills

The Academy Awards have come and gone, treating us to glimpses of the rich and famous – and very thin. Amid the buzz and glamour of this spectacle it can be hard to remember that the stars represent only a tiny portion (literally and figuratively) of our populations.

In fact, the growing rate of obesity is one of the most significant health trends in OECD countries and increasingly, in Brazil, Russia, India and China, the “BRIC” countries.  A just released Trends Shaping Education Spotlight highlights this issue from an educational point of view, with a special focus on children.

Obesity now affects more children than ever before, with one in five children between the ages 5 and 19 estimated to be overweight. The figures are higher for Greece, Italy, New Zealand and the United States, where almost one in three children is overweight. Especially disturbing is the leap in child obesity rates in China, Korea …

The ever growing generation gap in the classroom

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


It is perfectly normal that teachers and students are not of the same age. In contrast to other public services, it is a distinctive feature of education that the professionals, i.e. the teachers, are older than their clients, i.e. the students. One could think of education as an institutionalised dialogue between generations, as a social space in which they interact. Through education, societies transmit the knowledge, skills, culture and values of a society from one generation to another. Nevertheless, students are not just passive recipients of former generations’ knowledge and values, but also transform and build upon them, thus influencing the development of societies. Especially in a period of rapid social change, the dialogue between generations is critical to ensure that no generation gets left behind. Across OECD countries, some schools take this role very seriously a…

Our mothers were right: Hard work and perseverance do pay off

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by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Directorate for Education and Skills

How many times have you heard successful people, in all walks of life, credit their triumphs to hard work and perseverance? Now PISA adds to the chorus with some hard evidence: when students believe that working hard will make a difference in their studies, they score significantly higher in mathematics.

This month’s PISA in Focus examines how students’ perseverance and belief that hard work yields positive results are clearly linked to better performance. Students who reported, through the PISA student questionnaire, that they continue to work on tasks until everything is perfect, remain interested in the tasks they start, do not give up easily when confronted with a problem, and, when confronted with a problem, do more than is expected of them, have higher scores in mathematics than students who reported lower levels of perseverance. In as many as 25 countries and economies, students who have greater perseverance score at…

What’s at the root of women’s absence in STEM occupations?

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by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Directorate for Education and Skills

If you sift through all the education data the OECD has produced over the past year, you’ll come up with decidedly mixed results when it comes to women’s (and girls’) progress. Education at a Glance 2013 told us that gender gaps in educational attainment are not only narrowing, but are, in some cases, reversing, and that women are now more likely than men to enter and complete a university-level programme. Results from the first Survey of Adult Skills, a product of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), found that gender differences in the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) have narrowed considerably among 16-24 year-olds, and that, among younger adults, there is, on average, no gender difference in proficiency in numeracy or literacy. In fact, in those countries where there is a difference between young men’s and young women’s levels of literacy, it is young …

Expanding PISA’s circle of influence (part two)

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by Barbara Ischinger, Director, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills
Michael Ward, Senior Policy Analyst, PISA for Development
and Alejandro Gomez Palma, Policy Analyst, PISA for Development

In our previous blog about PISA for Development, we were pleased to announce Ecuador’s agreement to participate in this new pilot project. We’ve just returned from the Zambian capital of Lusaka and are delighted to report that Zambia has also agreed to participate – the first sub-Saharan African nation ever to take part in any PISA survey.

You might well ask: how can we compare the performance of students in highly developed countries – such as Japan and Germany – with that of students in low- and middle-income countries in Africa? And how do we assess the competencies of the tens of millions of 15-year-olds in developing countries who aren’t enrolled in school? These were precisely some of the challenges we put to ourselves when the idea of PISA for Development emerged from discussions with coun…