Education Today

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

2219-0430 (online)
2219-0422 (print)
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Each year, Education Today  aims to present  OECD's key findings and orientations for education policy in an accessible way so that they can be used by different audiences – our own national contacts, other sections of governments, experts, media and the wider public – who do not have the time to stay abreast of all of the OECD’s work on education. It is designed to encourage readers who know about only one or two of our studies to look further into those that they have been missing so far.

We have chosen to limit the scope of this report so that it includes only published results and policy orientations, and those applicable to most OECD countries (rather than, for example, single country reviews). The coverage is limited to work produced by the Directorate for Education, but it includes some analyses that have been conducted jointly with other OECD Directorates. A recent example is the OECD’s horizontal "Innovation Strategy" to which the Directorate for Education made an important contribution regarding education and skills for innovation.

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Education Today 2013

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Education Today 2013

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Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

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17 Dec 2012
9789264186811 (PDF) ;9789264177109(print)

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What does the OECD have to say about the state of education today? What are the main OECD messages on early childhood education, teacher policies and tertiary education? What about student performance, educational spending and equity in education? OECD work on these important education topics and others have been brought together in a single accessible source updating the first edition of Education Today which came out in March 2009.

Organised into eight chapters, this report examines early childhood education, schooling, transitions beyond initial education, higher education, adult learning, outcomes and returns, equity, and innovation. The chapters are structured around key findings and policy directions emerging from recent OECD educational analyses. Each entry highlights the main message in a concise and accessible way, with a brief explanation and reference to the original OECD source.

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  • Foreword

    The OECD Directorate for Education helps member and non-member economies to foster human and social capital skills and leverage education and training systems to shape dynamic and sustainable futures. This means preparing learners for more rapid change than ever before. Key questions concern how skills can be matched to new needs, how to foster innovation, how to equip teachers for the 21st century, and how to reinforce the positive social impacts of education. We encourage countries to compare their performance and experience, and to learn from each other.

  • Note on Country Coverage and Levels of Education
  • Executive Summary

    Countries need an increasingly educated and skilled workforce to succeed in today’s knowledge economy. That means good basic education in childhood and adolescence that equips people not just for the jobs of today, but with the ability to learn new skills for the jobs of tomorrow right through their lifetime.

  • Introduction

    This summary report is based on results from OECD work produced in recent years by the Directorate for Education, and especially in the past three to four years. The background to its preparation is explained in the Foreword. The approach chosen focuses on results and policy orientations which are published and hence in the public domain. Only generalised findings about developments, policy or practice relevant across most OECD countries have been included. So, not covered are: studies or reviews of single countries; publications which provide exchange of information on promising practice without broader analytical conclusions; work plans and programme intentions; and clarifying statements of problems, challenges or issues.

  • Early Childhood Education and Care

    Participation in education by three- and four-year-olds tends now to be high, though coverage is a third or less of the age group in several OECD countries. Early childhood education and care (ECEC) has been a growing priority in OECD countries, and the subject of past and ongoing OECD analysis. A major OECD review was published in 2006 – Starting Strong II: Early Childhood Education and Care – which has been followed up through an ongoing international network. There are wide differences between systems, including between those which have a strong "preparation for school" approach and those implementing a broader social pedagogy, between those with mainly public provision and those relying strongly on private household resources, as well as in the relative emphasis on education and childcare. ECEC can bring a wide range of benefits for children, parents and society at large, but the magnitude of benefits is conditional on quality. Therefore the OECD in 2012 released Starting Strong III: A Quality Toolbox for Early Childhood Education and Care, which serves as a reference guide and aims to encourage quality in ECEC. Additionally, the 2012 edition of Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators includes a new indicator on the state of early childhood education, providing a rich comparative insight into early childhood education systems around the world.

  • Schooling: Investments, Organisation and Learners

    There have been major investments in schooling across OECD countries, including in teacher salaries. Shared patterns exist alongside notable differences such as in teacher beliefs (as charted with the Teaching and Learning International Survey [TALIS]) and in school time use. OECD work has analysed the characteristics of learners and learning, teachers, and how to improve school leadership. The analytical work undertaken for the annual International Summit on the Teaching Profession recognises the key role of teachers for the success of schooling and educational change. PISA studies have permitted specific analyses of aspects of schooling, such as student attitudes towards and knowledge of the environment. Work on the educational role of technology has shown how important is home use for educational outcomes. Policy orientations on schooling have stressed the need to professionalise and innovate, calling for reforms directed at effective learning to be placed at the core of schooling, rather than changing only structures and administrative systems. The OECD continues to analyse and stress the value of good school design and safe buildings.

  • Transitions Beyond Initial Education

    The OECD has examined arrangements and policies surrounding the transitions beyond compulsory schooling. Extended education to at least completion of the upper secondary cycle is increasingly the norm right now across the OECD countries. Alongside shared patterns are marked differences on such matters as the relative proportions who engage in general or vocational study, as well as the possibilities to combine education with employment. Vocational education and training – which have tended to be neglected in countries compared with general school and university programmes, and which often do not well meet labour market needs – have been the focus of recent OECD review, with the publication Learning for Jobs. OECD policy orientations have stressed the need to improve the existence, diversity, relevance and transparency of different pathways, and the need to integrate them into a lifelong learning perspective, while protecting those left most vulnerable as others advance to further education and employment. The OECD recently released its Skills Strategy, an integrated, cross-government strategic framework that aims to help countries to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their existing national skills pool and skills systems, benchmark them internationally, and develop policies for improvement.

  • Higher Education

    Countries have shared the very rapid expansion of higher or tertiary education, which means that instead of this being an experience enjoyed by a privileged minority, it has now become even the majority experience of each new cohort. There are broad trends visible across the OECD – for instance, the growing international tertiary education market and the greater formalisation of quality assurance. Despite rising costs for the individual, tertiary education remains a primarily public enterprise in most countries. There has been prominent OECD work on higher education, including on internationalisation, a major review of tertiary education, the regional role of higher education institutions (HEIs), the future of higher education, and feasibility work on the Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO). "Supporting Quality Teaching in Higher Education" has identified long-term improvement factors for teaching staff, decision-making bodies and institutions. Work on the transition opportunities of young adults with disabilities into tertiary education and employment has showed the progress made in recent years and identified areas for further progress. Policy orientations include the need to develop and work towards strategic visions, to ensure that quality assurance serves both improvement and accountability purposes, and to use cost sharing between the state and students as the principle to shape the sector’s funding.

  • Lifelong Learning and Adults

    This chapter draws on various sources to examine evidence and recommendations regarding adult education and training, and lifelong learning more widely. It brings together survey information on individuals in the adult population, education system information, enterprise data, and research findings on the ageing process. Wide differences exist between countries in which organised learning is a common adult activity and where it remains much less common. The majority of the learning undertaken relates to non-formal job-related training, and in the formal education sector there are countries where very few older adults are found. Studies of ageing show the clear benefits of continued learning. Findings and conclusions from OECD studies on key areas such as financing (especially co-financing), guidance, the recognition of non-formal learning, and qualifications systems are presented, some of these from the mid-2000s. Certain education systems are more successful than others at teaching non-native languages to adults. Analysis on the literacy and life skills of adults informs the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) which will provide a powerful comparative data set on foundation skills and human capital in 2013.

  • Outcomes, Benefits and Returns

    Very rich information on educational outcomes has been generated through OECD work, especially with the triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which surveys the achievements of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics, science and related aspects of competence, together with a range of associated background information. The Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education series has allowed for deeper understanding of the policy trajectories and practices of those education systems that are among the "top" performers on PISA. Education is also closely related to employment outcomes and earnings, with key OECD findings reported in this chapter. Additionally there is an expanding analysis of returns to education within the OECD, with findings confirming the positive returns to higher levels of educational attainment on a variety of measures, certainly for the individual, but also for the economy at large. There are also positive returns to early childhood education and care, and to vocational education. Work on the social outcomes of education examines how education influences health, civic participation and social engagement, as well as the economic outcomes.

  • Equity and Equality of Opportunity

    Analyses of developments and policies that influence equity have been an underlying priority in much of the OECD educational work. The persistent patterns of inequality have been highlighted, with the increasing quality of international data permitting analyses relating to many pertinent groups of learners and their educational experiences. The dimensions and groups include gender, age, migrant status, special needs and social background, and cover adult formal and nonformal learning, as well as schooling, vocational education and higher education. OECD analysis has also charted the nature of the "digital divide". Findings and recommendations from a major international review of equity in education that resulted in two publications – No More Failures and Equity and Quality and Education – are presented. The chapter reports promising policy directions from studies, including those on immigrants’ education, cultural diversity and teacher education

  • Innovation and Knowledge Management

    Recognition of the key role of research and knowledge management in educational practice and policy making is in general recent. The volume of relevant educational research and development (R and D) tends to be low, despite education being so explicitly about knowledge, and there has been only weak capacity to develop and exploit the knowledge base on which to build improved practice and effective policies. A great deal of educational change is still shaped by short-term considerations despite education’s fundamental long-term mission and nature. Improving the knowledge base and fostering innovation have been the aims of policy in a number of countries. Within the OECD, analyses of educational R and D systems, knowledge management, innovative practice including using technology, systemic innovation, futures thinking, and evidence-informed policy and practice, have all been prominent. Analysis has also focused on the so-called 21st century skills, seen as fundamental to innovative and creative societies.

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