copy the linklink copied!Reader’s guide

copy the linklink copied!Structure of the report

The report is divided into three parts:

  • Part I covers the Education Policy Outlook’s comparative analysis in Chapters 1-5 in the areas of school improvement, evaluation and assessment, governance and funding.

  • Part II of the report includes invited contributions to the Education Policy Outlook by the OECD’s Implementing Education Policies programme (Chapter 6) and an OECD external contribution by the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (Chapter 7). Chapter 7 expresses the opinions of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD and does not necessarily represent the official views of the OECD nor those of OECD countries.

  • Part III of the report includes the snapshots of the participating education systems, including an overview of the education systems’ context, the evolution of their policy priorities as well as policy trends (Chapter 8). It also include the report’s annexes.

copy the linklink copied!The Education Policy Outlook Analytical Framework

The Education Policy Outlook uses an analytical framework to examine education policy ecosystems. Drawing on OECD work with countries on education policy, this framework serves as a lens through which readers can review education systems from the point of view of students, institutions and systems (see Annex A, Table A1.1). This report focuses on institutions and systems. The Education Policy Outlook has been using this analytical framework since 2012 to carry out comparative and country-based analysis of education policies from early childhood education and care to higher education and lifelong learning.

copy the linklink copied!Coverage by primary source of information

This report features data on education from 43 education systems within and beyond the OECD area that participated in activities of the Education Policy Outlook, such as a comprehensive survey on education policy and the OECD’s ongoing series of Education Policy Outlook country profiles (see Annex A, Table A1.2).

  • The Education Policy Outlook National Survey for Comparative Policy Analysis 2016-17 (referred to in this report as EPO Survey 2016-17) aimed to collect information to allow for a comparison and update of information on education systems’ policies and policy priorities collected by the Education Policy Outlook from 2008 to 2018. A total of 29 education systems responded to the survey between 2016 and 2018. In addition to the 2013 survey questions, the 2016-17 survey gathered information on the evidence underpinning the policies and on their lifecycle (implementation, evaluation, evolution and completion).

  • The Education Policy Outlook country profiles published in 2017 (Austria, Belgium [including the Flemish, French and German-speaking Communities], Italy, Latvia and Sweden) and those published in 2018 (Mexico, Spain and Kazakhstan), as well as country profiles that are immediately forthcoming (Denmark, Greece and Ireland) have also been drawn on for this report.

  • The OECD Secretariat also conducted additional extensive desk-based research during 2018 and 2019 aiming to complement this information.

  • Primary sources also include information provided by governments based on specific follow-up questions asked by the OECD Secretariat, as well as validation processes with government, which took place mainly during the first half of 2019.

  • For this report, the OECD also analysed over 150 OECD publications of country-based analysis produced from 2008 until 2018.1 The publications considered for this analysis consist mainly of country and thematic reviews and economic surveys produced across the OECD. Although these publications have different scopes and are, in some cases, subject to voluntary participation, they are a valuable source for highlighting trends in policy priorities previously identified by the OECD for individual education systems (see Annex A for the list of these publications).

Policies collected in the 2013 Education Policy Outlook Survey that were reported by education systems again in the EPO Survey 2016-17, yet for which the OECD Secretariat was unable to gather sufficient updated information are not included in the policy analysis of this report (see Annex B for the list of these policies).

copy the linklink copied!Acknowledging the importance of national and sub-national contexts

This report aims to provide an updated comparative perspective of policy continuity and policy change since 2015, as part of education policy ecosystems. It also provides available evidence on the progress and impact of such policies. This overview of policy priorities and trends can serve as a source of inspiration for other education systems that share similar challenges and contextual characteristics. At the same time, this report acknowledges that national and regional contexts, resources, traditions and institutional settings within education systems across OECD countries and partner economies influence the impact of education policy priorities on their populations. These factors play a key role in the way actors may identify policy priorities for education systems over the short, mid or long term. Differences also emerge in the policies and reforms put into place within education systems to address common key issues.

copy the linklink copied!Coverage and timing

This report captures policies implemented mainly between 2008 and 2018, although based on exchanges with participating education systems, some of the policies included in this report are as recent as 2019.

The report presents a range of recent policy responses across different policy contexts. These policies do not represent the totality of ongoing policy activity in participating education systems for the topics analysed. Differences in the number of policies by education system included in this report are a function of the relative capacity to collect information on education policy in a given education system, rather than a measure of the volume of policy activity in the education system over the period.

In the same way, the timescales and processes required for the implementation of a new reform can vary considerably across education systems and may depend on the scope and intended coverage of the reform. It should be borne in mind that the term “implementation” can be interpreted differently by different systems. In some cases, an overall strategic plan may have different components implemented in stages; in others, it may be necessary to pass legislation before beginning to implement measures. The OECD Secretariat has endeavoured to include the most recent information possible. However, depending on exactly when information was collected, and when final validation of information took place, the information presented may not reflect the most recent developments.

copy the linklink copied!Terminology

Chapters 1 to 5

Policy priorities for each country generally reflect:

  • Key priorities: Areas where the system is under-performing and have been identified as a point of concern (such as difficulties in ensuring equitable allocation of resources across schools).

  • Key contextual issues: Particular points of attention that a system needs to keep in mind, given its characteristics (such as demographic change or development of new regional or national industries).

  • Systemic objectives: Short-term, mid-term and longer-term goals for government administrations.

Depending on when they were identified by education systems (in their responses to the EPO Survey 2016-17, or in eventual updates during revision processes for the report) or the OECD (in previous country-based work conducted with countries), policy priorities are classified according to two periods:

  • identified by education systems and/or the OECD in at least the period 2008-14

  • or as more recently identified priorities if they were identified by education systems and/or the OECD between 2015 and 2019.

Based on the education policy priorities identified in its work with individual countries over the past, the OECD has formulated recommendations for education systems that contain principles of action. Principles of action are the component of a recommendation that draws from the international evidence produced on a specific topic, either by the OECD or externally. As in the previous report (Education Policy Outlook 2018: Putting Student Learning at the Centre), the OECD Secretariat has also included relevant principles of action in its analysis for Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5, intending to support constructive policy dialogue and peer learning among education systems. Keeping in mind the importance of context, these chapters also aim to provide examples of how apparently similar principles of action can apply differently, depending on the contextual specificities and needs of different education systems.

In this report, the OECD Secretariat also analysed trends in education policy:

  • Policies are classified as still in place if they were implemented between 2008 and 2014 and were subsequently reported as having continued since the previous survey.

  • Policies are classified as recent if they were implemented after 2015 (mainly between 2015 and 2018, with some coverage for 2019).

Chapter 8

The OECD Secretariat has centralised all the policies that are included in the tables of Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 of this report, in Chapter 8, either as selected or additional policies.

Some of the selected policies also appear in Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 as illustrative examples to complement the comparative analysis. These policy examples also provide a summary of available evidence of progress or impact.

Additional selected policies are those which, due to their design, are considered promising or of potential interest to other education systems.

copy the linklink copied!Layout of tables

Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 (policy priorities and trends)

The tables in Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 include information on education systems from previous OECD country-based work, as well as the challenges reported by education systems in the EPO surveys 2013 and 2016-17, desk-based research by the OECD Secretariat, as well as during follow-up consultations with education systems, mainly in 2019. It covers 43 education systems across OECD countries and partner economies, mainly in the period from 2008 to 2019.

Belgium, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom are organised into different regions or territories, each with their own government and autonomous education system. The analysis of policy priorities for these education systems is as follows:

  • Belgium: This report considers policy priorities and policies individually for the Flemish Community, the French Community and the German-speaking Community.

  • Canada and Germany: This report considers policy priorities for Canada and Germany as a unit for each, as the policies are described from a federal perspective in both OECD country-based work and the EPO surveys 2013 and 2016-17. For Canada, policies from the federal level as well as from individual provinces are included (Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Ontario).

  • United Kingdom: OECD country-based work considers policy priorities individually for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This report considers only policies for England as reported in the EPO surveys 2013 and 2016-17.

The tables in these chapters also include information on education policies for which there is available evidence of impact or progress and/or where the policy design is of potential interest to other education systems. The tables list policies according to recent policies (implemented mainly between 2015 and 2019) and policies still in place (implemented between 2008 and 2014).

Chapter 8 (snapshots)

The tables in Chapter 8 include information on the evolution of key policy priorities identified in selected OECD country-based work (and education systems’ responses to the EPO surveys 2013 and 2016-17). They also include data from information exchanges with education systems with country profiles published in 2018 (Austria, Belgium [Flemish Community, the French Community and the German-speaking Community), Italy, Kazakhstan, Spain and Sweden). This covers the period 2008 to 2018, and eventually 2019. Validation processes from all education systems were collected during 2019.

copy the linklink copied!Data sources

This report includes mainly OECD and Eurostat data. The main sources of OECD data include Education at a Glance 2018 (EAG), the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015, and the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018 and the previous TALIS cycle (2013). In some cases, where no OECD or Eurostat data were available, national data were consulted.

copy the linklink copied!Further information

For further information on the work of the Education Policy Outlook, please see


← 1. Selected reports published in the first quarter of 2019 that were deemed particularly relevant to the work of the Education Policy Outlook have also been considered.

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