Universal Basic Skills

Universal Basic Skills

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Author(s):
OECD, Eric A. Hanushek, Ludger Woessmann
13 May 2015
Pages
112
ISBN
9789264234833 (PDF) ;9789264234819(print)
DOI: 
10.1787/9789264234833-en

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While access to schooling has expanded around the world, many countries have not realised the hoped-for improvements in economic and social well-being. Access to education by itself is an incomplete goal for development; many students leave the education system without basic proficiency in literacy and numeracy. As the world coalesces around new sustainable development targets towards 2030, the focus in education is shifting towards access and quality. Using projections based on data from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and other international student assessments, this report offers a glimpse of the stunning economic and social benefits that all countries, regardless of their national wealth, stand to gain if they ensure that every child not only has access to education but, through that education, acquires at least the baseline level of skills needed to participate fully in society.

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  • Foreword

    Economic growth and social development are closely related to the skills of the population, indicating that a central post-2015 development goal for education should be that all youth achieve at least basic skills as a foundation for work and further learning, not merely that they gain access to schooling. Achieving such a goal would lead to remarkable overall economic gains while providing for broad participation in the benefits of development and facilitating poverty reduction, social and civic participation, health improvement, and gender equity.

  • Editorial

    Everywhere, skills transform lives, generate prosperity and promote social inclusion. If there is one lesson we have learned from the global economy over the past few years, it is that we cannot simply bail ourselves out of an economic crisis, we cannot solely stimulate ourselves out of an economic crisis, and we cannot just print money to ease our way out of an economic crisis. We can only grow ourselves out of bad economic conditions and, in the long run, that depends more than anything on equipping more people with better skills to collaborate, compete and connect in ways that drive our societies forward – and on using those skills productively. Ensuring that all people have a solid foundation of knowledge and skills must therefore be the central aim of the post-2015 education agenda.

  • Executive summary

    Discussions about expanding the Millennium Development Goals beyond 2015 acknowledge, in part, that the original goal of universal primary schooling should include a stronger component on learning outcomes. A focus on learning and skills is strongly supported by evidence about the economic benefits that accompany improved school quality. Economic growth and social development are closely related to the skills of a population, indicating that a central post-2015 development goal for education should be that all youth achieve at least basic skills as a foundation for work and further learning, not merely that they gain access to schooling. Achieving such a goal would lead to remarkable overall economic gains while providing for broad participation in the benefits of development.

  • The case for promoting universal basic skills

    The key to achieving inclusive and sustainable development lies in increasing the knowledge and skills of populations. This chapter discusses the link between economic growth and a population’s skills. It argues that all countries, rich and poor, stand to gain enormously by ensuring that all of their citizens acquire at least basic skills in reading, mathematics and science.

  • Relationship between skills and economic growth

    This chapter introduces the research on the connection between economic growth and the skills of a population, and briefly discusses some of the difficulties and uncertainties encountered in making this connection.

  • The goal: Every young person acquires basic skills

    This chapter defines the concept of "basic" skills and identifies the people to whom this goal applies: all young people, not just those who are enrolled in school.

  • Distance from the goal of basic skills for all

    How far do countries have to go to achieve the goal of basic skills for all? This chapter offers a comprehensive picture of the current state of "knowledge capital" in each of the 76 countries that have relevant data. It also provides additional information about some of the countries in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa that have not participated in either PISA or TIMSS, but have participated in regional assessments, and information concerning India and China.

  • Economic impacts of achieving the basic skills goal by 2030

    This chapter proposes three scenarios to examine the economic impact of achieving the goal of universal basic skills: each student now in school acquires a basic level of proficiency in mathematics and science; universal enrolment in secondary school, without changing the quality of schooling; and both universal enrolment and at least basic skills among all students. A fourth scenario posits improvements to be made over 30 years rather than over 15 years.

  • Sharing the benefits of universal basic skills

    This chapter discusses how the benefits of universal basic skills can be distributed across societies and can narrow gaps in earnings that feed into income disparities. It also considers the question of whether to support the lowest achievers and/or cultivate the highest achievers.

  • What achieving universal basic skills means for the economy and for education

    fundamental education goal for all nations can be succinctly stated: all youth should acquire at least basic skills. This chapter summarises the benefits – both economic and social – that could accrue to countries, rich and poor, if their populations were to acquire basic skills.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Annexes

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    • Review of knowledge capital and growth

      This annex provides a more technical overview of the estimates of growth models that are relied upon in the text. It also describes the various tests used to judge whether the estimates can be interpreted as causal estimates of the effect of knowledge capital. More detail is found in Hanushek and Woessmann (2015).

    • Transforming performance in TIMSS onto the PISA scale

      The data on educational achievement generally refer to the average of mathematics and science achievement on the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2012 test. Data on country mean achievement are derived from OECD (2013). Data on shares of students below specific achievement levels are calculated from the underlying PISA micro database (which does not contain data for Cyprus; see notes at the end of this Annex). A total of 65 countries participated in PISA 2012, 62 of which have the internationally comparable economic data necessary to be included in the projection analyses.

    • Augmented neoclassical results
    • Distribution of skills when goal of universal basic skills is achieved
    • Sample of PISA questions requiring Level 1 skills

      The following sample questions from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test illustrate the skills required for 15-year-olds to perform at Level 1 proficiency. A variety of additional sample questions at different levels for the PISA assessments can be found in PISA 2012 Results: What Students Know and Can Do (Volume I, Revised edition, February 2014): Student Performance in Mathematics, Reading and Science (2014, OECD Publishing, Paris).

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