4. Strengthening resilience at system level through a smart information infrastructure and dynamic pathways

In today’s ever-changing environments, education systems such as those in which Sofia and Lucas live must learn how to evolve in synchrony with societies’ future needs. These education systems must shift practices and processes in anticipation of and response to change, yet the far-reaching nature of the life-wide and lifelong learning required for 21st century success means that education systems are among the most vast and complex systems in national public policy. As such, system-level actors in today’s education systems must consciously and pro-actively build system resilience, the capacity to ‘bounce forward’ rather than simply ‘bounce back’ (Hynes, Trump, and Love, 2020[1]).

The potential changes facing today’s systems may be somewhat foreseeable or may seem completely improbable; they may hit suddenly or may form part of longer-term evolutions (see Overview). Whatever the change, the possible consequences for education systems themselves can be organised into four main categories, according to analysis conducted for this report:

  • Disruption to relationships with themselves—e.g. change in national development vision or national priorities for education;

  • Disruption to relationships with others—e.g. change in international competition and co-operation;

  • Disruption to resources they can access—e.g. change in staff populations, change in availability of public and international funds, and household resources, change in delivery mode, reconfiguration of institutional network, large-scale change in attendance pattern;

  • Disruption to education and employment pathways—e.g. changes in labour-market skills supply and demand, large-scale change in participation patterns.

In the face of such disruptions, resilient systems withstand change, adapt practices and use experiences to drive transition. With this in mind, and through analysis of international evidence, this framework identifies two core policy areas for responsiveness and resilience in education at the system level: 1) Collecting, disseminating and improving the use of information about students, and; 2) Fostering dynamic educational pathways that evolve with the learner and the times. This chapter explores these policy areas in more detail, building on international evidence and policy analysis.

As in previous chapters, it offers practical and actionable measures that policy makers can take in the short and medium term. The chapter concludes by turning policy makers’ attention to the longer term, asking questions about how broader structural and organisational changes could foster responsive and resilient broader learning environments for the future.

Building system resilience begins with strengthening the education system’s knowledge base, with a specific focus on student-related information, on which the system can make evidence-informed decisions about how best to act. Education systems must therefore collect a range of information about students through a variety of systematised approaches to capture a rich picture of system performance and progress. Resilient systems also need to ensure that information is disseminated among system actors and that these actors have the capacity (e.g. in terms of skills, tools or encouraging environments, for example) to make use of and benefit from these insights.

The processes that feed into and out of the knowledge base must be comprehensive enough to provide sufficient information about learner and system progress towards long-term goals, as well as being flexible enough to withstand moments of crisis and adapt to fast-changing environments. They also need to be cost-effective and strategic to help education actors better use what they need as they move towards long-term objectives using the systems’ available resources.

Experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic illustrate these tensions. The extent to which countries and economies adjusted related plans to administer national examinations and assessments during institutional closures depended both on the health context and the level of focus traditionally placed on these tests within the education system (OECD, 2021[2]). The majority of adjustments were made to national examinations at upper-secondary level. In both 2020 and 2021, rescheduling and modifying the content of the examinations at this level were the most common types of adjustments employed by education systems (see Figure 4.1).

This is indicative of the fact that national examinations at this level often serve important functions. Education systems relying heavily on these examinations for certifying the completion of compulsory education or facilitating entry into higher education may have been less disposed to cancelling the examinations and employing other assessment methods, such as teacher-based assessment or final grades based on continuous assessment. Other motivations for not cancelling examinations reported by countries and economies in the Special Survey include the need to compare results to those of previous academic years for system monitoring and to provide teachers with diagnostic information about students (OECD, 2021[2]).

Collecting, disseminating and improving the use of information within a responsive and resilient education system therefore requires a careful balancing act. While high-stakes examinations at key moments in education pathways have a valuable role to play, they must be accompanied by supporting assessment efforts that are regular and formative. Evidence from the pre-pandemic context shows that these areas could be strengthened in many OECD countries and economies. In the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018, while 80.3% of lower-secondary teachers across the OECD reported that they use a variety of assessment strategies in their teaching, 57.5% reported regularly providing written feedback as well as a numerical mark, and 41.0% frequently encouraged student self-assessment. From the students’ perspective, in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018, only 44.6% of 15-year-olds across the OECD reported that their teacher frequently tells them how to improve their performance.

Robust assessment and data collection practices support teachers and policy makers to strengthen education institutions’ and systems’ responsiveness and resilience to shocks. As students are increasingly called upon to acquire complex skills beyond knowledge in order to navigate a changing world, education systems must rethink strategies and means to measure their progress (OECD, 2019[4]). Furthermore, responsive and resilient education systems, which, by their nature, aim to educate the “whole-child”, bringing learners’ different worlds together to enhance learning, must reflect those aims in the knowledge base, developing assessment and other data collection tools to create a balanced view of performance.

These education systems employ a variety of methods to collect information about student learning in its broader sense. This includes information about traditional academic development, but also wider personal and interpersonal development. Effective assessment frameworks also encourage a variety of assessment types, including teacher observation, written classroom tests, and standardised instruments (Maghnouj et al., 2020[5]). Similarly, they collect information at different times in a students’ learning journey, balancing the use of summative and formative assessments, as well as diagnostic assessments. Finally, collection should occur across different governance levels – institutional, local, regional, national and international – to help target resources effectively and offer comparative insights.

Education systems also need to strategically reflect on which instruments will allow them to monitor their own progress and better plan for the future. System evaluation of this nature benefits from employing a variety of collection tools such as indicator frameworks, qualitative reviews focusing on particular areas, and policy and programme evaluation, alongside the tools to monitor student outcomes as described above (OECD, 2013[6]; Golden, 2020[7]).

Indeed, as resilience tackles cutting-edge emerging threats, traditional quantitative information sources may not always be available or useful; qualitative research can therefore bridge initial gaps in understanding risk (Hynes, 2019[8]). Technology has a role to play too, thanks to the increasing availability of policy-relevant big data and open data (Golden, 2020[7]). Integrated digital data platforms can also help system-level actors complement education system data with other kinds of administrative data at national and local levels to reveal previously unseen correlations and causations (Subosa and West, 2018[9]).

The COVID-19 experience alerted education systems to possible weaknesses in approaches to collecting information that should be considered in the short and medium term as they move forward into an increasingly uncertain future. Many OECD education systems rely on high-stakes, external standardised examinations to determine, at least in part, key moments in learners’ pathways, whether that be transition to the next stage or as part of qualification and certification processes. While several systems made adjustments to examination arrangements in 2020 and 2021 (see Figure 4.1) such moves often added stress for learners and their families, were a greater burden on teachers, or implied the loss of a crucial source of longitudinal data during a year in which such information would have been particularly valuable. These experiences may serve as a warning for systems that are overly reliant on one source of student progress data. Such imbalance creates unnecessary rigidity, impeding resilience.

See Table 4.1 for a list of policies considered in this analysis; [֎] see Chapter 5 for further information.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, assessment reforms in many countries and economies already reflected a broader shift towards measuring complex competencies and other skills that support learners’ transitions to the labour market. These might include digital competencies, social and emotional skills, or higher-order thinking skills (OECD, 2019[4]; Burns and Gottschalk, 2019[10]; OECD, 2013[6]). In addition, growing concern for the social and emotional development of students has led some countries and economies to undertake efforts to monitor and assessing student well-being.

However, assessing these complex or non-cognitive competencies can be challenging. In Norway, researchers have developed new instruments to measure whether curricular reforms in primary and secondary education are enhancing students’ capacity for in-depth learning, learning to learn, and interdisciplinary themes such as health and life skills (see Chapter 2). A student questionnaire measures acquisition of relevant concepts while a teacher questionnaire gathers data on practices, training needs, and perceptions of the school environment. The project will carry out four annual surveys from 2021-25 as part of a multi-stage evaluation. A report on the first round concluded that the developed measurements had good psychometric properties (Brandmo et al., 2021[11]).

Digital technology can also support the assessment of a wider range of competencies (OECD, 2020[12]) while providing education systems with greater flexibility to adapt to changing contexts. Prior to the pandemic, Turkey updated its Education Information Network (EBA) digital learning platform (see Table 2.5 in Chapter 2) to enable students, parents, and teachers to monitor student progress (OECD, 2020[13]). Moreover, Finland has progressively digitalised its matriculation examination for upper-secondary graduates, becoming fully digital from 2019. The examinations now incorporate digital and visual tools, allowing students to complete computation, editing, and graphic presentation tasks. Finland also launched an online platform to familiarise students with the examination and support them with administrative aspects; this also helped the Matriculation Examination Board to monitor the development of the test system. In March 2020, Finland condensed the examination period into a single week ahead of school closures. The Matriculation Examination Board worked with schools to anticipate and resolve technical issues arising from the increase in the number of students taking the test on the same day and collected feedback from candidates and school staff. Examinations in autumn 2020 (Q4) and spring 2021 (Q2) were organised in smaller sessions over a longer period (OECD, 2020[12]).

The shift to distance learning in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic has led many countries and economies to strengthen digital assessment. Portugal produced a detailed set of guidelines for teachers on the assessment of distance learning. These provide specific examples of online and offline activities to assess different competence areas of the Student Profile for the End of Compulsory Schooling, with suggestions on how to give quality feedback and appropriate digital tools for each activity. The guiding principles encourage teachers to use a variety of assessment strategies to ensure reliability and to give students with different needs the chance to demonstrate learning (Directorate-General of Education of Portugal, n.d.[14]). In countries and economies such as Slovenia֎ and Spain֎, assessment in the context of distance learning was a key focus of teacher professional development during 2020/21. This focus on building teachers’ capacity is promising (see Table 3.5 in Chapter 3; see also Chapter 5—Country Snapshots).

In the immediate term, assessing the impact of school closures on students’ learning has also been a key priority for several countries and economies as schools reopened. Of 28 education systems reporting having already taken steps to assess learning losses by September 2021, 24 reported that this took the form of formative assessment carried out by teachers. Some 18 reported that students were assessed in a standardised way, including Estonia and France (OECD/UIS/UNESCO/UNICEF/WB, 2021[3]).

In the same way, shifting the focus from high-stakes assessment towards continuous assessment may leave education systems better placed to adapt to disruptions and can also reduce student stress. For many systems, however, this requires a shift in teaching practices and successful implementation involves empowering educators to make changes (OECD, 2013[6]). In Ireland, the move towards a greater focus on classroom-based assessment as part of the Junior Cycle reform had significant implications for teachers’ workload, leading to some resistance among teaching unions. Ireland therefore developed a comprehensive professional development offer and gave teachers protected time for collaboration. Implementation plans were revised regularly to ensure support for teachers matched the scope of changes introduced. Ireland also continued to gather teacher feedback on the reform (OECD, 2020[15]).

Also to support teachers, and to facilitate the collection of information on student learning, teachers in the Slovak Republic֎ have access to a bank of assessments designed by other teachers, which can be used to assess individual units or topics. The teachers who designed the tests participated in a series of training events on diagnostic assessment and the specifics of creating tasks for individual subjects.

Over the medium term, policy makers also face the challenge of building trust among the different actors involved in data collection. In some education systems, students and parents have expressed concerns about institutions collecting data on students’ special educational needs (SEN) or mental health. These sensitivities, along with concerns about stigmatising students, may prevent countries and economies from collecting or publishing certain data (OECD, 2018[16]). Similarly, teachers in some countries and economies have resisted attempts to collect student progress data, fearing an incorrect use of this information. This points to a need to develop robust mechanisms to ensure data protection, reflecting on which data are shared with which audiences, and ensuring transparency for different actors about its use.

Develop and consolidate data collections so that these act as safety nets for education actors in contexts of change and disruption. Over the medium term, policy makers need to consider how the scope (i.e. aspects of learning covered), tools (i.e. format of assessment and other means of collecting data), layers (i.e. levels of the system where data is collected), and timing (i.e. continuous assessment, terminal examinations, real-time data and longitudinal data) of data collection converge to provide a safety net for education systems in the event of shocks. These reflections should be guided by the overarching goals of the education system and an ongoing endeavour to strengthen trust, flexibility, and efficiency in assessment and data collection procedures. Fewer examples of policies collected for this report aim to address the balance between continuous and summative assessment, suggesting this may require more attention in the short term.

As well as collecting the right information, effectively disseminating this information between key education actors is a crucial precursor to putting it to good use. Indeed, information that once collected is hard to find, little publicised, or not deemed useful enough to pass on to other actors in the system has been a waste of resources (Burns and Köster, 2016[22]). A system that lacks the capacity for communication and dissemination of key messages to wide audiences will struggle to use the evidence it collects and generates effectively (Golden, 2020[7]). Resilient education systems must therefore focus on quality dissemination practices around three key aims: clarity, trust and learning.

Effective dissemination is an initial step in allowing education actors to become co-champions of education processes. For example, effective reporting mechanisms and information systems allow teachers, parents and learners to monitor progress themselves, even as students move through education levels (OECD, 2013[6]). On the other hand, decision makers at different levels of the system often use aggregate data for planning and strategic improvement. Effective dissemination may also help mitigate information asymmetries that arise at moments of key decision making such as choice of school, pathway or career, and exacerbate inequities.

At the same time, resilient education systems effectively disseminate information to help establish trusting relationships with people across the system. Providing quality feedback to parents and carers lays the foundations for home-institution partnerships, for example (OECD, 2013[6]). PISA data indicate that education systems that use student assessments to inform parents about their child’s progress also tend to be more equitable (OECD, 2020[23]). In a broader example, the dissemination of the evidence base underlying policy diagnosis, policy options and the costs of reform versus inaction is critical to gain public support for implementation. This presents a risk, however, as the system must commit to sharing positive and negative information, acknowledging where information and evidence are still insufficient. Meanwhile, a lack of clear reporting and dissemination runs the risk of enabling non-expert players to take control of key messages (OECD, 2013[6]). Achieving the right balance therefore requires a cultural shift towards accepting failure as a possibility and an opportunity for learning (Golden, 2020[7]). In other words, a responsive and resilient system needs to adopt a growth mindset.

Responsive and resilient education systems also see value in dissemination as a critical tool for scaling up innovative practices. Transforming education systems into learning systems depends on organisations and actors having the capacity both to collect evaluative information on their own work and to learn from other evaluations and evidence (Golden, 2020[7]). Improving the dissemination of results of experimental education research could encourage other actors and institutions to take action (Burns and Köster, 2016[22]). The COVID-19 experience emphasised the need for this type of dissemination or sharing of best practice. During the initial emergency period, in particular, in many education systems, education institutions became the drivers of innovation and change, identifying solutions to their problems quickly and creatively. Without efforts to disseminate these experiences, the system risks becoming atomised, with isolated pockets of good practice going unnoticed (see Chapter 3). As such, the identification and streamlining of best practices through quality dissemination empowers institutions and educators to exercise a bottom-up influence and contribute to the improvement cycle of education systems (Gouëdard, Pont and Viennet, 2020[24]; OECD, 2020[20]).

See Table 4.2 for a list of policies considered in this analysis; [֎] see Chapter 5 for further information.

Among OECD education systems, a common approach to improving the dissemination of education data is to develop digital information management platforms and data products for different audiences. Digital technologies can be used to draw together data from different sources and can provide users with tools to analyse the data. During school closures in 2020, Finland and Estonia used digital platforms to provide feedback to students and their families. Finland’s national online parents’ evening gave parents the opportunity to discuss their child’s learning and provide feedback on home-school collaboration.

However, when pursuing the objective of facilitating access to information, governments also need to keep in mind that, sometimes, less is more. Abundant information does not necessarily mean audiences will be better informed. In Denmark, for example, an advisory group established in 2019 made recommendations for simplifying the mandatory individual student plans, which had recently become digital. One of the key challenges the advisory group identified was that the student plans intended to fulfil a wide range of purposes for a wide range of audiences. As a result, the plans contained large amounts of information, and took teachers a long time to complete. The advisory group recommended replacing the plans with a limited number of focus points for each student’s development to be used as a basis for dialogue with students and parents (Ministry of Children and Education of Denmark, 2020[25]). This, among other experiences, points to a need to think carefully about the audience and purpose of data collection and reporting, curating the information according to the audience, and also placing more value on the process of using this information (OECD, 2013[6]; OECD, 2018[26]).

Indeed, as well as ensuring that reporting mechanisms are user-friendly, it is important to take steps to help intended audiences engage with the data. The information generated in an education system is only as good as the use that is made of it. To this end, New Zealand’s Ministry of Education has developed a collection of infographics and student profiles to support student learning at the school level and to increase the transparency of education data. The Ministry closely monitors and modifies these data products based on user feedback and demand, with the aim of reaching a wide range of users. The Ministry has also worked with other government agencies to combine different forms of administrative data in an integrated data management system. An increasingly wide range of stakeholders use the data as part of the Communities of Learning initiative (OECD, 2019[4]).

  • Curate information for the needs of different education actors. Governments face the challenge of achieving clear, targeted and tailored dissemination of information that strikes a balance between over-simplification and excessive technical detail. In the short term, policy makers therefore need to more clearly define the roles and aims of different actors and information sources in order to determine who needs what data and when, and how best it can be communicated. Over the medium term, information management systems and other digital tools facilitate a more tailored approach.

  • Use dissemination to signal priorities and scale up innovative, cost-effective and impactful local initiatives. Disseminating evaluative information, including evidence from experimental education research, can speed up improvement processes in contexts of disruption and change. This is when local actors may struggle more to set priorities, and identify and apply solutions to emerging challenges. In the immediate post COVID-19 recovery, this will help education systems recover lost learning where pockets of good practice could serve as valuable inspiration. For this reason, disseminating information is not a top-down process, but also bottom-up and lateral.

  • Develop an education system with a growth mindset. In a world where contexts rebalance constantly, education systems need to engage in efforts to nurture a growth mindset among policy makers, practitioners, learners and families over the medium term. This involves disseminating evidence that shares both strengths and points to be enhanced, but also clarifying where the evidence is stronger or still frail. This can help develop greater trust among education actors and promote a continuous dialogue with greater clarity on how decisions in one area may affect other areas of policy action.

For assessment data to have a real impact, actors across the education system must know how to use it. In resilient systems, this requires establishing feedback loops so that pertinent information is channelled back into both pedagogical and policy-making processes, helping to establish an open and continuous cycle of system learning (Maghnouj et al., 2020[5]). These feedback loops, and the capacity to make the most of them, must be readily available to students, educators and policy makers.

Improving the use of student data begins with equipping students with the skills they need to assess their own learning and take meaningful action in response to feedback (OECD, 2013[6]; Hattie, 2019[29]). Students who regularly assess their own progress and can reflect on their learning strategies will be better able to take greater responsibility for their learning. This is particularly important when the normal way of learning is disrupted. Accurate self-assessment and self-evaluation also have a powerful impact on student learning: a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses of student achievement research found that self-reported grading (i.e. students’ own estimations of their ability and progress) had the greatest impact on student achievement of the 138 achievement effects considered (Hattie, 2019[29]).

At the same time, teachers and school leaders need specific knowledge and skills to interpret student data, and to use it to inform decision making. Yet diagnosing the source of student difficulties and developing appropriate remedies for different students is often challenging (OECD, 2013[6]). Educators need to understand how national learning expectations and students’ trajectories in reaching them can be assessed through a variety of tools. At the same time, teachers need to be skilled in providing constructive and precise feedback in order to foster students’ future achievement (Maghnouj et al., 2020[5]). This requires concrete actions at system and institutional level to strengthen educators’ assessment literacy.

Data and assessment literacy are also critical competencies for actors at system level. In PISA 2018, countries and economies tended to show greater equity in education when they use student assessments to identify aspects of instruction or the curriculum requiring improvement and when they use them to inform parents about their child’s progress (OECD, 2020[23]). Such competencies require continuous updating, particularly as the range of data available to policy makers continues to expand. For example, the increasing availability of policy-relevant big data and open data offers opportunities for greater insight into the impact of policies, but the capacity to use such data is still in its infancy (Golden, 2020[7]).

At the same time, education management information systems can help make the administration of educational services more efficient while also generating information that allows education actors to plan responsively for the future, make informed policy decisions, and concretely measure the success of education policies and programmes (Subosa and West, 2018[9]). Investing in internal administrative and analytical capacities within national education, as well as enhancing collaboration with specialist education evaluation agencies, academic researchers, private institutes, or international organisations, can help strengthen the way system actors use information (Golden, 2020[7]). Such collabroations and investments will take time: moving forward in the short term, it is critical to ensure that learners, the education community and the system can monitor learning progress in a timely manner and adapt pedagogical processes accordingly (OECD, 2020[20]).

  1. See Table 4.3 for a list of policies considered in this analysis; [֎] see Chapter 5 for further information.

Before the pandemic, several countries and economies had already undertaken efforts to help actors in education systems use information collected about student learning. For example, standardised classroom-based assessments in countries and economies such as Alberta (Canada) and France֎ take place at the beginning of the school year; the results become available to teachers within a few days of the test. By giving teachers earlier access to assessment results, governments aim to facilitate their use of the results to improve student learning (Alberta Education, 2020[30]; OECD, 2020[12]). Furthermore, one of the key objectives of the reform in France is to support teachers in responding to the needs identified in the assessments. In the same way, New Zealand’s Assessment Resource Banks for teachers include some digital assessment tasks that provide students with immediate feedback, while others are designed to promote student-teacher and student-to-student dialogue. The teacher support material contains examples of how teachers have used different tasks as a ‘thinking together’ exercise. Other tasks include reflective questions to support students in thinking about their learning (Joyce and Fisher, 2014[31]). Indeed, capacity-building efforts are crucial: an important success factor of Norway’s֎ assessment for learning programme is seen in the collaborative professional learning networks established by local authorities.

In the context of the pandemic in 2020, as reported in the Special Survey, education systems such as Austria, Estonia, France, Italy, Latvia or Poland reported using results from the national assessments at lower-secondary level carried out in 2020 for formative purposes, notably to provide diagnostic information for teachers and to provide parents with feedback on their child’s learning (OECD, 2021[2]). Chile developed a Comprehensive Assessment of Learning to support schools in addressing students’ learning losses and social and emotional needs following school closures in 2020. The assessments were applied in more than 80% of Chilean schools, from the 2nd grade of primary to upper-secondary levels, and evaluated reading, mathematics and students’ socio-emotional status. 

Several education systems, including Denmark and Norway, have also taken steps to share evidence with teaching professionals, policy makers, and other education actors, and to support them in using it to improve policy processes and learning outcomes. For example, the Danish Clearinghouse for Educational Research produces systematic mappings bringing together education research on a particular policy area. The Norwegian Knowledge Centre for Education conducts similar analyses and publishes summary overviews of its research through its web portal, indicating whether the research is aimed at policy makers, practitioners, or other audiences. In the United Kingdom, the Education Endowment Foundation publishes toolkits for schools which show the comparative cost, evidence strength, and measured impact of different policy options and interventions (OECD, 2018[26]). Since the outbreak of the pandemic, it has published evidence on issues relating to distance education and recovering lost learning.

  • Support education actors to understand evidence, unpack it as needed and use it for impact. In the short term, training and support materials for education actors should focus on helping them to identify students’ learning needs based on assessment and to implement activities that will help students make further progress (OECD, 2019[34]). Given the important role that formative assessment has played in several countries and economies’ efforts to address the learning gaps that opened up in the early stages of the pandemic, it will be all the more important to ensure teachers can interpret assessment data and take action accordingly (OECD, 2021[2]). However, capacity building for these actors needs to remain priority-focused and collaborative as education actors face new challenges. This will help education actors own and manage evidence more easily as they apply it to their specific environments. Similarly, they will be more motivated to use the information they receive if they see that it has value and can be applied to their specific context. Investing in technological and institutional capacity to support change when needed will be important as well.

Empower students to assess their own progress and take meaningful action. Analysis from the Education Policy Outlook, as well as pre-pandemic survey data, suggest that there is progress to be made in embedding student self-assessment practices. Over the medium term, policy makers will need to address specific challenges identified, including ensuring that students have regular opportunities to assess their own work and ensuring adequate teacher training to promote formative assessment in the classroom, as well as creating a climate that encourages this use of evidence.

Resilient education systems develop a broad, flexible and coherent educational offer that enables learners to find a pathway suited to their needs and interests, even as these change. At the same time, the educational offer should ensure that learners are equipped with the skills and competences they will need in order to contribute fully to society and the labour market. To that end, as skills demands evolve, with evolutions accelerated or diverted by crises and recovery periods, the system of education pathways must be nimble enough to anticipate and adapt to such change.

In addition, education systems must be pro-active in supporting students to access information about career pathways and develop ambitious and realistic career expectations. However, there are large gaps among OECD countries and economies in terms of students’ attitudes towards their future and their access to the resources that could potentially provide them with better professional perspectives, such as guidance counsellors, internships, job shadowing or visiting a job fair (see Figure 4.2). For example, while on average across the OECD, nearly two-thirds of students (64%) attended schools that employ or are regularly visited by a guidance counsellor, in some countries and economies the share was less than one-fifth. Interestingly, when comparing students by socio-economic background, inequities between disadvantaged and advantaged students were more prevalent in terms of attitudes – such as expectation to be in a high-skilled occupation or to complete tertiary education – than in access to specific resources, such as career advice or work experience activities. Therefore, beyond providing resources, shifting attitudes matters too.

A responsive and resilient education system not only ensures that pathways and learning opportunities enabling learners to fulfil their ambitions are available to all, but also that these pathways can evolve along with societies’ future needs. This flexibility can be promoted in the short and medium term by looking into transitions between education phases, guaranteeing permeability between different pathways, reducing drop-out or grade repetition and establishing flexible entry and exit points across a learner’s lifetime.

Promoting successful transitions through the education system begins with a broad but coherent course offer suited to learners’ changing needs, interests, and abilities. A growing body of research highlights the importance of students’ transitions between different stages of the education system, particularly the move from early childhood education and care (ECEC) to primary school, and the move from primary to secondary school (OECD, 2017[38]; OECD, 2013[39]; OECD, 2018[40]). Supporting such transitions helps systems nurture positive educational contexts and can thus prevent learners from falling behind. To this end, curricular and pedagogical continuity, co-ordination and collaboration between different levels, and parental engagement can be particularly effective. Since disadvantaged students are more likely to find transitions challenging, programmes may benefit these students most (OECD, 2017[38]).

To increase flexibility, education systems should also guarantee permeability between educational tracks. This refers, for example, to ensuring that there are no dead ends and that learners can easily transfer between them if desired. Traditionally, education and training systems have separate and distinct subsystems (e.g. general and vocational) within a hierarchy of levels (i.e. primary, secondary and tertiary) and learners follow predefined routes suited to their goals (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, 2012[41]). Although these, and other horizontal and vertical stratification policies, aim to help educators work with groups of similar students, they can have the unintended consequence of imposing sorting mechanisms along socio-economic and academic lines (OECD, 2020[23]).

Promoting successful transitions also means helping learners stay on path by minimising the rates of grade repetition and early school leaving, which both have short- and long-term costs for students, education systems, and societies (OECD, 2018[40]). Research indicates that students who have repeated a grade tend to perform less well in school, hold more negative attitudes towards school and are more likely to drop-out. Furthermore, in PISA 2018, disadvantaged students were more likely than their advantaged peers to have repeated a grade, even when performing similarly in reading, suggesting that non-academic factors can influence such decisions (OECD, 2020[23]).

Finally, resilient education systems must provide flexible entry and exit points. In the context of fast-changing skills demand, creating flexible and shorter types of learning opportunities can help support workers to reskill in a timely manner. Research into applying such approaches in higher education indicates that they strengthen both equity and efficiency (OECD, 2019[34]). For example, online and distance-learning opportunities could allow more higher education students to study while living with parents or family and reduce the concentration of students in expensive university towns. Developing part-time study and short courses can reduce the amount of time that learners need to spend out of work.

Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand for efforts in all four of these areas in the short and medium term. Institutional closures disrupted transition activities already in place, forcing some systems to delay and adapt timelines for admission, induction and integration. At the same, with the habit of attending class now broken, some students became disengaged from their learning and their peers, increasing the risk of non-completion, particularly among disadvantaged students (OECD, 2020[20]). Finally, as the longer-term impact on the labour market is revealed, workers of all ages will need access to upskilling and reskilling opportunities that build on their prior experience, fit with their current circumstances, and support their future aspirations. As a result, the pandemic has highlighted the need for processes which normalise and facilitate flexibility in educational pathways, including training breaks or extensions, short-duration study options, flexible skills assessment and qualification, and recognition of prior learning.

  1. See Table 4.4 for a list of policies considered in this analysis; [֎] see Chapter 5 for further information.

Building on the Education Policy Outlook’s knowledge base, this framework has selected policy examples of how education systems can promote resilience through approaches that encourage smooth transitions, permeability of tracks, and reduced school failure or grade repetition, as well as providing flexible entry and exit points.

Several countries and economies introduced reforms to smooth transitions from one phase of the education system to another in the years before the pandemic. The transition from early childhood to primary education has been a focus, with many countries and economies seeking to align the ECEC and primary curricula and to institutionalise collaboration between teaching professionals at different levels. In some cases, transition policies target specific groups, such as disadvantaged students or minorities.

Data from the Special Survey 2021, however, suggest that, for many countries and economies, the pandemic has shifted the focus in the short term towards transitions later in students’ lives. Around one in four of the participating education systems targeted efforts to address learning lost during school closures in 2020 at students in primary education transitioning from one phase of the education system to another. When considering students in lower and upper-secondary education, this increased to one in three, while in upper secondary education, over half of the education systems reported targeting remedial measures at students expecting to sit a national examination to access higher education (OECD/UIS/UNESCO/UNICEF/WB, 2021[3]). Policies from the pre-pandemic period can provide useful lessons for countries and economies in this context. For example, before the pandemic, Japan introduced an integrated primary and lower-secondary school. Results from an initial evaluation show that the initiative has improved collaboration between primary and secondary schools and reduced anxiety among students moving from primary to secondary education (OECD, 2019[4]).

Moving beyond the school level, recent initiatives in countries and economies such as Canada and Chile support students’ successful transitions beyond secondary education. Canada’s Supports for Student Learning Program (SSLP) funds youth-facing national, regional, and local organisations to promote learners’ completion of upper secondary and successful transition to further education, the labour market and lifelong learning. For example, SSLP provides funding to the Pathways to Education programme, which has improved upper-secondary graduation rates, post-secondary enrolment, and labour-market outcomes among students from low-income communities through after-school supports such as tutoring, mentoring, and direct financial incentives. An evaluation from 2018 highlights the programme’s flexible structure as a key success factor. This has allowed staff to adapt programming to the specific needs of local youth by, for example, incorporating Indigenous teachings and traditions (Employment and Social Development Canada, 2019[42]). In 2021, Canada announced additional funding to expand the SSLP and help ensure that students do not face greater challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic (Government of Canada, 2021[43]). In the same way, Chile has sought to smooth transitions between vocational upper-secondary education and short-cycle tertiary education through a National Articulation Agreement signed by 35 higher education institutions (HEIs). When transferring from a participating school to a participating HEI, students can validate at least three of the vocational modules they have studied at secondary level as part of their tertiary-level qualification. This reduces their course load when they enter higher education (Ministry of Education of Chile, 2021[44]).

To increase the permeability of educational tracks, some education systems have developed qualifications frameworks that allow for comparability between programmes in general education and vocational education and training (VET) while others have focused on reforming VET pathways. In this process, improving the quality and attractiveness of VET is an important first step in facilitating transitions between academic and vocational pathways. Labour-market forecasting and regular collaboration with employers play an important role in ensuring that VET programmes lead to employment, making them more attractive to learners (OECD, 2018[40]).

Denmark has taken several measures in this direction since 2015. Efforts include strengthening admissions to upper-secondary VET to guide learners towards paths where they are likely to succeed, and introducing a VET preparation programme for lower-secondary students who lack necessary skills. An interim evaluation showed an increase in the number of teachers reporting that the majority of students have the skills they need to complete their programmes successfully. The number of students achieving a passing grade has also increased (OECD, 2019[34]). Through reforms introduced with the Project for Autonomy and Curricular Flexibility (2018), Portugal has also expanded its VET offer to include a wider range of high-skill occupations, such as electronics, automation and renewable energies. The OECD found that these reforms have reduced the traditional bias towards general education programmes in Portugal by creating routes to more attractive occupations (OECD, 2017[45]).

Education systems have also implemented strategies to reduce school failure or grade repetition. Tackling early school leaving often begins by developing early warning indicators to identify learners at risk (OECD, 2018[40]). Several successful strategies take a holistic and multi-faceted approach to addressing risk factors for drop-out. This has been a key dimension of Latvia’s֎ Tackling early school leaving project. At the beginning of the school year, a teacher creates an individual support plan for each student in the programme based on an assessment of various risk factors. Support measures include consultations with specialists or financial support to continue studying. Latvia continued to provide remote counselling and financial support for at-risk students during school closures in 2020 and was one of several countries and economies that implemented targeted remedial measures for students at risk of drop-out when schools reopened.

According to the Special Survey, many education systems (26) introduced targeted measures to promote the return of students from vulnerable groups to education after school closures. Over 75% of these education systems introduced school-based mechanisms to track the return of target populations, some 50% leveraged community engagement activities, and around 25%, including Costa Rica, Estonia, Portugal, Spain and Turkey, provided financial incentives for at least one vulnerable group (OECD/UIS/UNESCO/UNICEF/WB, 2021[3]).

Other policies aim to provide flexible entry and exit points within the education system. This includes flexible adult learning programmes, opportunities to complete upper-secondary education, and strategies to improve the skills of those who have fallen out of work.

Governments in countries and economies such as New Zealand֎ and Finland֎ have taken measures to diversify the higher education landscape while ensuring quality. New Zealand has introduced a funding mechanism to encourage high-performing HEIs to develop micro-credentials that complement existing tertiary provision. Applicants must demonstrate that the qualification has excellent learner outcomes, strong employer or community demand, and contributes to government priorities. Finland has also taken measures to strengthen its existing offer of flexible open studies courses as a credible route to higher education. The open studies pathway has provided learners who might not otherwise have attended university with greater flexibility, and an alternative to the traditional competitive route to higher education. However, this pathway remains limited and is not available in all subject areas, notably in competitive ones such as medicine and teacher training. A recent report recommended that Finland introduce regulations to encourage HEIs to expand the pathway (OECD, 2019[34]).

For some countries and economies, integrating newly arrived migrants into the education system has been a key priority. This often begins with assessing newcomers’ skills and validating their qualifications and work experience. Countries and economies also provide guidance, support and specialised courses to support migrants’ entry into the education system and the labour market. OECD research suggests that vocationally oriented language courses can be a powerful tool for integration (OECD, 2018[26]). In Germany, for example, in addition to a nationwide vocational language-training programme, each Land (federal state) offers one- or two-year courses to prepare new arrivals for entry to VET. Computer-assisted tests also assess migrants’ skills in different professions and provide them with feedback and advice (OECD, 2020[46]).

  • Build bridges between people at different levels of the education system. People are at the heart of transition processes. Many successful strategies to promote learners’ transitions within the education system have therefore focused on strengthening collaboration between teachers and other professionals working at different levels of the system. This facilitates the exchange of information on individual learners and supports broader efforts to ensure that the curriculum and pedagogy prepare them for their next step. Evidence on successful transitions highlights the importance of professional continuity between phases. This involves ensuring that teaching professionals are prepared for collaboration and transitions, but also working to align the training, working conditions, status, and recognition of teachers working at different levels of the system (OECD, 2017[38]). At the same time, the responsibility for ensuring smooth transitions must be shared between education and training actors at different phases, including the world of work. Ensuring successful transitions involves looking back at learners’ prior experiences and progress, as well as looking ahead to their next step to ensure they are adequately prepared.

Aligning education pathways with the current and future needs of the labour market is an important task for education systems, which play a crucial role in channelling skills and talent into the labour market. Resilient education systems must ensure that students’ skills, interests and aptitudes find a suitable match in the economy (OECD, 2019[55]). However, global megatrends have caused labour markets in OECD countries and economies to undergo considerable structural changes in recent decades, shifting the demand for skills and putting many jobs at risk of automation in the next decades (Vandeweyer and Verhagen, 2020[56]). This adds new urgency to the challenge of alignment; education systems that fail to confront this urgency risk preparing students for a labour market that no longer exists (OECD, 2018[40]). Labour-market forecasting can help governments direct investment to areas where demand for employment is likely to grow.

As well as aligning curriculum and labour-market demand, resilient education systems can ensure that individual learners have the skills to succeed in the labour market by giving them access to quality work-based learning and experience of working environments. Without this, young people risk falling into the experience trap, where employers overlook young people who typically demonstrate higher levels of education and qualifications in favour of those who already possess competences developed in the workplace. Work-based learning can also help learners to strengthen other skills and competences critical to 21st century success – such as creativity, collaboration and problem solving in real-world environments – through practicing them in an applied manner (OECD, 2020[57]).

The likelihood of global recession following the COVID-19 pandemic poses significant risks for young people entering the labour market, as well as those already in work. In the context of reduced demand, many employers will be less willing to take on new staff and are likely to reduce staffing on a last in, first out basis. In this context, many students, employees and job seekers will be looking to reassess their options or change paths. OECD evidence shows that improving the quality and productivity of apprenticeship candidates and building strong relationships with social partners can improve employers’ satisfaction and engagement with work-based learning programme (Schoon and Mann, 2020[58])

Experiences from the global recession of 2008 show that high-quality VET programmes, and active labour-market policies in particular, help young people adjust to changed economic circumstances (Schoon and Mann, 2020[58]). HEIs also have an important role to play in supporting upskilling and reskilling by developing a broader and more flexible offer, including online and short-cycle courses (OECD, 2020[59]; OECD, 2020[60]). Governments can promote labour market-relevant practices in higher education using steering mechanisms such as performance-related funding and quality assurance procedures.

  1. See Table 4.5 for a list of policies considered in this analysis; [֎] see Chapter 5 for further information.

Countries and economies such as Canada and Estonia have combined efforts to strengthen collaboration with employers with mechanisms to monitor and anticipate changes in the demand for skills. Canada’s֎ Labour Market Information Council has aimed to respond to a need for timely, local, and granular labour-market data by prioritising collaboration with labour-market partners and developing several complementary approaches to data collection, such as surveys, linking administrative data, and modelling methods (Hofer, Zhivkovikj and Smyth, 2020[61]). In 2020, the Council produced a synthesis of reports on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canada’s labour market. The Future Skills Council brings together representatives from public, private, labour, Indigenous and not-for-profit organisations to provide advice on emerging skills and workforce trends (Government of Canada, 2021[62]). Similarly, Estonia’s labour market monitoring and skills forecasting system draws on labour market data, survey data, and interviews with experts from different sectors. Sectoral experts also provide feedback on existing qualifications. The data is used to inform career guidance and support the design of reskilling, VET, and higher education courses. Estonia has experienced some challenges, however, balancing the need to respond to student preferences in VET with the need to align the course offer to the demand for labour and skills (OECD, 2020[18]). This points to a challenge found in other education systems: improving the quality of labour-market information while taking steps to make high-demand sectors more attractive to learners.

Degree-level apprenticeships that attract high-quality candidates can be particularly attractive to employers (Schoon and Mann, 2020[58]). Education systems such as the French Community of Belgium, Estonia, Japan and Sweden have taken steps in this direction when implementing work-based learning in higher education. In Sweden֎, employers and VET providers work collaboratively to provide vocational tertiary education, and graduates have high rates of employability. A national agency assesses the quality and outcomes of the programmes and monitors labour-market trends. The number of places in Higher VET has been increasing steadily since 2018, and was increased significantly in 2020 as part of broader measures to strengthen the supply of skills in the wake of the pandemic.

Governments seeking to provide those who have been affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic with routes back into the education system could learn lessons from previous strategies aimed at improving labour-market skills among vulnerable populations. Since 2016, for example, Portugal has developed the Qualifica Centres, a network of regional adult learning and career guidance to bring these services closer to target populations such as young people not in education, employment or training, and the unemployed. The Centres provide information, guidance, and training plans and develop training in partnership with employers and education providers. The strategy has led to a large increase in the number of adults participating in training and gaining qualifications. At the same time, OECD analysis highlights the need to invest in the recruitment, retention, and training of high-quality adult educators and career guidance professionals when implementing this kind of strategy (OECD, 2020[50]).

With the outbreak of the pandemic, many other education systems developed programmes to help vulnerable workers and learners develop skills in areas that meet the needs of the economy and society. Strategies in countries and economies such as Estonia֎, Ireland֎, Norway֎ and Sweden֎ allow workers to retrain in key sectors such as health, social care and digital technologies.

Young people in Slovenia can apply for scholarships to complete vocational programmes in fields with a shortage of skilled labour, such as carpentry, masonry, baking, and several bilingual vocational programmes (Ministry of Education, Science and Sport of Slovenia, 2021[64]). The scheme aims to address a long-standing mismatch between educational attainment and labour demand. Labour-market forecasting and collaboration with employers will play an important role in ensuring that such schemes continue to meet the demand for skills. As part of broader measures to protect young people from the economic fallout of the pandemic, France֎ has also developed individual training and support pathways for 16-18 year-olds who have fallen out of the education system. The programmes combine training and work-based learning with social support and leisure activities, based on an individual assessment of the young person’s needs. The Canadian province of British Columbia֎ provided funding for unemployed young people to participate in projects that help their communities build back from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since many of these schemes require extensive funding, it is essential to introduce mechanisms to monitor the quality of the programmes and participants’ labour-market outcomes.

  • Keep an eye on long-term goals to resist the appeal of more costly short-term measures. Early in the pandemic, many countries and economies sought to ensure the continuity of existing work-based learning programmes, and to promote work-based learning. While incentives such as employer subsidies might overcome employers’ reluctance to take on apprentices in the short term, they may also direct young people towards pathways with poor long-term prospects. With the initial shock now passed, governments must review these measures in light of longer-term strategic priorities, drawing on lessons from the previous global recession, and making use of emerging data on the demand for labour and skills. One of these lessons is that interventions to promote employer participation in work-based learning are more impactful when they focus on improving the quality of apprenticeships and the productivity of apprentices. The duration of the placement or the pay and support apprentices receive are some important aspects in this regard (Schoon and Mann, 2020[58]). Governments also need employer engagement strategies that align with national and regional development goals, and allow collaboration with new social partners (OECD, 2017[65]).

Young people suffer disproportionately in any recession, and that initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Evidence shows that in contexts of crisis, such as economic distress, students may take very different decisions that could disproportionately affect their future careers—particularly in the case of students from disadvantaged backgrounds (Biddle, 2021[81]). By supporting students to develop ambitious and realistic aspirations, resilient education systems can push learners to reflect on who they are and who they want to become, and to think critically about how their educational choices translate into their future economic life (OECD, 2020[82]).

Education systems can ensure learners are well-informed about the career, education or training pathways available to them through curriculum design, as well as complementary activities that bring them into contact with careers advice. Failing to ensure learners have information about employment prospects in different jobs risks inhibiting their future insertion into the labour market. Moreover, those who have a realistic and clear career ambition are more likely to be engaged in their learning than those who see no purpose (OECD, 2019[37]). Unfortunately, evidence from PISA 2018 shows that there is often a mismatch between young people’s career aspirations and the 21st century job market; young people’s expectations are often influenced by their social-economic background, gender, or immigrant status (see Figure 4.2).

Career guidance is most effective when it is responsive to individual needs, and when it reaches individuals through different channels. According to European survey data, less than one in three adults have ever accessed career guidance. Adults with low qualification levels are less likely to access career guidance, although they often stand to benefit the most from this information. Schools and training centres can facilitate access to career information by embedding career guidance in the curriculum and organising activities with employers and career guidance professionals. Volunteers working in different sectors can enhance career guidance by providing career talks, mentoring, CV workshops and mock interviews. Career talks can be a particularly effective way of challenging stereotypes about different occupations.

Alongside guidance services, providing targeted financial support to disadvantaged or vulnerable students and their families can widen access to post-compulsory education and improve completion rates. Evidence shows that means-tested grants are particularly effective in promoting equitable access to higher education. Disadvantaged students and some minority groups may be debt-averse and tend to respond better to grants than loans when making decisions about further study (OECD, 2020[83]; OECD, 2008[84]). Means-tested support is also more efficient, since it directs investment towards students who may not have otherwise continued their studies (OECD, 2020[83]).

  1. See Table 4.6 for a list of policies considered in this analysis; [֎] see Chapter 5 for further information.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, education systems had implemented a range of measures to support young people’s transitions to work. Following the 2008 financial crisis, several countries and economies across the European Union sought to strengthen career guidance for young people who had fallen out of work as part of the Youth Guarantee. In 2021 and beyond, such support mechanisms will gain relevance as larger numbers of young people experience challenges entering the labour market. A successful aspect of Finland’s Youth Guarantee was a network of co-ordinated guidance centres for under-25s. The centres were a joint venture between three government ministries and different education providers, and help young people navigate a fragmented system of benefits and services (OECD, 2020[19]). Although the Youth Guarantee has many successes, the European Commission has highlighted a need for more personalised guidance and complementary actions for young people with complex needs (European Commission, 2020[85]).

In addition, several countries and economies have experienced challenges in reaching out to target populations, particularly young people not registered with employment services. One solution is to embed career guidance into earlier phases of schooling. For example, Slovenia֎ has sought to provide career guidance from primary education level onwards (OECD, 2018[26]). Finland֎ introduced a career guidance development programme for students in primary and secondary education in 2020. The programme targets groups that often have poor access to careers information, such as students in VET, students with SEN, and students from an immigrant background. Also, Hungary’s online Career Orientation Measurement and Support Tool is in place in primary and secondary schools to assess students’ competencies in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects and match them with career paths that suit their interests.

The United Kingdom֎ has also sought to improve the quality of information available to prospective higher education students through an ongoing process of research, evidence collection and evaluation. Evaluations of the Unistats platform, which enabled users to compare undergraduate courses, revealed that students outside the school or college environment were less likely to use the platform. The new Discover Uni platform (2019), therefore aims to provide additional advice and guidance to support prospective students throughout the decision-making process, and includes information on study options such as distance learning and apprenticeships (Office for Students, 2021[86]). Moreover, the Graduate Employment and Skills Guide (2021) supports recent tertiary graduates to identify public, private and voluntary sector opportunities in order to help them build employability skills, gain work experience, and enter the labour market. The Slovak Republic has also recently developed an online platform that gives prospective students access to data on the labour market outcomes of upper-secondary and tertiary graduates and allows them to compare different institutions and fields of study.

Providing targeted financial support to vulnerable learners can have long-term benefits for the economy as well as for individuals. Canada’s Skills Boost Initiative provides an example of a targeted financial assistance scheme that supports those who may not otherwise have continued their studies. This includes a grant for students from low- and middle-income families who have been out of upper-secondary education for more than ten years, and who wish to return to education (OECD, 2019[4]). Canada has also changed the name of its financial assistance programme for post-secondary education from Canada Student Loans to Canada Student Financial Assistance. By shifting the focus from the loan component of federal aid to the non-repayable component, Canada aims to make the scheme more appealing to debt-averse groups such as low-income groups and Indigenous peoples. In addition, some Canadian jurisdictions now give aid applicants the option to receive only the grant component of their funding; others are also considering this move (Government of Canada, 2021[87]).

Some policy pointers for resilience

  • Target career information and financial support to those who need it most. Solely facilitating access to information sometimes may not be enough. Actively reaching out to those most affected by changes in the labour market is key, especially since these groups often have the poorest access to career information. Evidence from policy evaluations suggests that even where career guidance and employment services are in place, target populations do not always use them. Over the medium term, as well as working to increase the visibility of these services, policy makers can bring careers information to disadvantaged learners by embedding careers activities into compulsory education and VET programmes (Musset and Kureková, 2018[90]; Inter-Agency Working Group on Work-based Learning, 2019[91]). At the same time, the stress of the pandemic is likely to make some learners more risk-averse, and therefore less willing to invest financially in education (Biddle, 2021[81]). Although many governments will themselves be facing constrained economic circumstances, they should take steps in the short term to ensure that financial barriers do not deter individuals from pursuing studies that could improve their career prospects. Removing financial barriers to education does not always involve extra spending. Giving learners greater flexibility over where, when, and how long they learn can also widen access to education.

This chapter has presented practical policy advice for the short and medium term to support policy makers to develop education systems that are better able to navigate disruption and change. Going beyond this time frame, education policy makers will also need to look to the longer term, critically questioning some of the more deeply-entrenched structures and processes that define the operation of today’s education systems. In doing so, they can begin to identify ways of inserting responsiveness and resilience at the heart of the educational architecture of their systems.

The evidence presented in this chapter points to two priority areas that can support this. Firstly, the knowledge base on which education systems are built and developed needs to be more strategically imagined in the future. In particular, the collection, dissemination and use of information will need to be flexible enough to respond positively to the constant stream of informational or technological innovation and contextual change that it encounters. Secondly, the linear pathways with standardised start and end points that currently take students through the system will need to be reconsidered. As explored in this chapter, there are short and medium term fixes to promoting greater dynamism and personalisation in educational pathways, but ultimately, more radical changes may be required in the long term to ensure that pathways are consistently nimble enough to anticipate and adapt to change at learner, institution, system and global level.

With these priorities and the various components of the framework covered in this chapter in mind, education policy makers thinking about longer-term resilience at system level should engage in critical and courageous reflection around the following questions:

What if education systems developed a repertoire of equally trusted tools that monitor different types of learning to meet the needs of the system, even in rapidly changing contexts?

What if education systems normalised a purposeful, constructive and honest sharing of success and failure across system actors as an everyday practice to foster everyday improvement?

What if education systems could shift from a culture of compliance and standardisation to one built on innovation and rigorous and reflective evaluative thinking to support the system to set and achieve new goals?

What if education systems could fully abandon the one-size-fits-all approach, to more effectively create space and support in the system for students to pro-actively carve out their own pathways?

What if governments and education stakeholders successfully and consistently bridged decisions made for learners today with the prosperity desired for citizens tomorrow?

What if students’ futures were no longer defined by students’ backgrounds?

The discussions that such questions can prompt are a first step in looking beyond the short and medium term actions proposed in the Framework for Responsiveness and Resilience in Education Policy, towards a more fundamental transformation of today’s education systems in the longer term.


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