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Showing posts from January, 2016

Why do we bother with qualifications?

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by Simon Field
Senior Analyst, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills


After all, they are just pieces of paper with fancy script and impressive-looking designs, and employers are surely interested in what people can actually do – their skills – rather than pieces of paper? A new OECD study, entitled Building Skills for All, A Review of England casts a spotlight on this question.
Qualifications are useful because they make skills visible. It is confidently assumed that the holder of a school-leaving certificate can read and understand instructions, and make calculations, and that those with university degrees can do much more. This confidence allows employers and others to decide how to make the best use of the skills of the labour force.

In England, as in many countries, young people have more qualifications than ever before. Hopefully that means progress. But surveys of literacy and numeracy, like the new 2012 Survey of Adult Skills, sometimes cloud this rosy vision. In England, alt…

Joining the battle against extremism

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by Andreas Schleicher
Director, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills


Whoever has a hammer sees every problem as a nail. Those in the security business tend to see the answer to radicalism and terrorism in military might, and those in the financial business in cutting flows of money. So it is only natural for educators to view the struggle against radicalism and terrorism as a battle for hearts and minds. It was no surprise, then, that the roughly 90 education ministers who gathered at this year’s Education World Forum in London, repeatedly touched on this issue.

But the recent terrorist attacks in Europe have brought home that it is far too simplistic to depict extremists and terrorists as victims of poverty or poor qualifications. More research on the background and biographies of extremists and terrorists is badly needed, but it is clear that these people often do not come from the most impoverished parts of societies. Radicals are also found among young people from middle-class…

21st Century Children

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by Tracey Burns
OECD Directorate for Education and Skills
Manuela Fitzpatrick
MA in International Relations at Science Po, Paris.

"My son was accepted into film-making camp, and he's only seven years old! I'm so proud. The only problem is that I'm not sure how I will get him there since the twins have their dance class and then empathy workshop on the same afternoon".
On the phone with my friend, I make polite noises but inside I am thinking: what ever happened to kids having time to run around and just have fun?

What is the nature of modern childhood? Released today, the book Trends Shaping Education 2016 looks at major social, demographic, economic and technological trends affecting the future of education. One important focus: child well-being. 21st century children are in many ways safer and better protected that children from previous generations. Advances in medicine and stricter safety regulations – such as better bicycle helmets and the increased use of sea…

Can students be overconnected?

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By Francesco Avvisati
Analyst, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

In the pursuit of happiness, Aristotle famously wrote “Meson te kai ariston”: moderation, staying away from both excess and deficiency, is best. The past weeks of holiday celebrations reminded many of us how there could be too much of even the good things in life, e.g. too much eating and too much drinking.
Similar advice may apply just as well to young people’s use of the Internet. Most 15-year-olds in OECD countries spend at least some time each day wandering through cyberspace as part of their media diet. As this month’s PISA in Focus reports, in 2012, every day or almost every day, a large majority of 15-year-old students (71%, on average across OECD countries) browsed the Internet for fun, e.g. on video-streaming sites, and participated in an online social network (73%). In most OECD countries, more than one in two students reported spending two hours or more on line every day on weekends.

While spending up …

Is the gender gap in higher education widening?

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



One of the most remarkable consequences of the expansion of education in OECD countries over the past decades is the reversal of the gender gap in education. From outright exclusion and discrimination in educational institutions less than a century ago, girls and young women have conquered schools and colleges. In 2013, 55% of all students graduating from a general secondary education programme were girls – ten percentage points higher than in 2000. In learning outcomes, girls now largely outperform boys, though not in all subjects. Last year, the OECD published The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence, the most thorough study yet of gender differences in PISA performance. In reading, the gender gap across countries is equivalent to one year of schooling. However, in mathematics boys still outperform girls in six out of ten countries. Most worris…

The trends shaping the future of education

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by Tracey Burns and Rebecca Lavinson
Directorate for Education and Skills


Did you ever wonder if education has a role to play in stemming the advance of diseases such as diabetes and dementia? Or what the impact of changing family structures might be on our children, schools, and communities? Or whether new technologies are fundamentally changing the way students think and learn?

The OECD's work on Trends Shaping Education looks at major social, demographic, economic and technological trends affecting the future of education. The newest edition of the publication will be released on 18 January . Here’s a sneak peak.

Are cities the new countries? This provocative chapter looks at our increasingly urban lives and the impact this has on education. Across all OECD countries, the percentage of the population living in urban areas has grown from 60% in 1960 to around 80% in 2013. This number is only forecast to increase, with some countries expected to become almost entirely urban by 205…