Table of Contents

  • Nations around the world are undertaking wide-ranging reforms to better prepare children for the higher educational demands of life and work in the 21st century.

  • Many countries have seen rapidly rising numbers of people with higher qualifications. But in a fast-changing world, producing more of the same education will not suffice to address the challenges of the future. Perhaps the most challenging dilemma for teachers today is that routine cognitive skills, the skills that are easiest to teach and easiest to test, are also the skills that are easiest to digitize, automate and outsource. A generation ago, teachers could expect that what they taught would last for a lifetime of their students. Today, where individuals can access content on Google, where routine cognitive skills are being digitized or outsourced, and where jobs are changing rapidly, education systems need to place much greater emphasis on enabling individuals to become lifelong learners, to manage complex ways of thinking and complex ways of working that computers cannot take over easily. Students need to be capable not only of constantly adapting but also of constantly learning and growing, of positioning themselves and repositioning themselves in a fast changing world.

  • As more countries grant greater autonomy to schools in designing curricula and managing resources to raise achievement, the role of the school leader has grown far beyond that of administrator. Developing school leaders requires clearly defining their responsibilities, providing access to appropriate professional development throughout their careers, and acknowledging their pivotal role in improving school and student performance. What are the different roles and responsibilities of 21st-century school leaders and how have countries succeeded in developing effective school leaders at scale? This chapter summarizes OECD research on these questions.

  • Many nations around the world have undertaken wide-ranging reforms of curriculum, instruction, and assessments with the intention of better preparing all children for the higher educational demands of life and work in the 21st century. What are the skills that young people need to be successful in this rapidly changing world and what competencies do teachers need, in turn, to effectively teach those skills to their students? The question that arises from this is, of course, what teacher preparation programs are needed to prepare graduates who are ready to teach well in a 21st-century classroom. This question is, however, still difficult to answer with available comparative evidence.

  • Many education systems face a daunting challenge in recruiting high-quality graduates as teachers, particularly in shortage areas, and retaining them once they are hired. How have countries succeeded in matching their supply of highquality teachers to their needs? How have they prepared teachers for priority subjects or locations? Competitive compensation and other incentives, career prospects and diversity, and giving teachers responsibility as professionals are important parts of strategies to attract the most talented teaches to the most challenging classrooms. Active recruitment campaigns can emphasize the fulfilling nature of teaching as a profession, and seek to draw in groups that might not otherwise have considered teaching. Where teaching is seen as an attractive profession, its status can further be enhanced through selective recruitment that makes teachers feel that they will be going into a career sought after by accomplished professionals. All this demands that initial education prepares new teachers to play an active role in designing and delivery of education, rather than just following standardized practices.

  • Ministers, union leaders and teacher leaders from 23 of the 25 highest-performing and most rapidly improving education systems on PISA accepted an invitation from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the OECD and Education International to discuss how to prepare teachers and develop school leaders for the 21st century. It was an unprecedented turnout of those in education who can make change happen. They met because they realize the urgency of raising the status of the education profession, because they know that governments and the profession are in this together, and no doubt also because they were convened by an education secretary who has demonstrated that bold reform can be successfully implemented even in the most challenging times.