What will the global talent pool look like in 2020?

by Pedro Garcia de León, Corinne Heckmann, and Gara Rojas González 
Innovation and Measuring Progress Division, Directorate for Education

The “global talent pool” can be described in a lot of different ways.  But in an era in which having a higher (tertiary) education is increasingly a minimum requirement for successful entry into the labour force, one way to quantify it is to look at the number of people around the world who are obtaining a higher education degree.

As the latest issue of the OECD’s series Education Indicators in Focus details, by that measure, the global talent pool is exploding across OECD and G20 countries. What’s more, it’s likely to grow far larger by the year 2020.

In the last decade alone, the number of younger adults with higher education degrees has grown at a remarkably fast clip. This is particularly true for non-OECD G20 countries like Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, where the number of 25-34 year-olds with a higher education degree increased from 39 million in 2000 to an estimated 64 million in 2010. By contrast, the number of younger adults with higher education degrees in OECD countries increased from 51 million to an estimated 66 million during the same period.

In addition, the rapid expansion of higher education in non-OECD G20 countries has significantly altered the distribution of the talent pool among countries. A decade ago, one in six 25-34 year-olds with a higher education degree was from the United States, and a similar proportion was from China. Twelve percent came from the Russian Federation, and about 10% each were from Japan and India. But by 2010, China was at the head of the pack, according to OECD estimates, accounting for 18% of 25-34 year-olds with a tertiary education.  The United States followed with 14%, the Russian Federation and India each had 11%, and Japan had 7%. 

These trends are likely to intensify further in the years ahead. According to OECD projections, there will be more than 200 million 25-34 year-olds with higher education degrees across all OECD and G20 countries by the year 2020 – and 40% of them will be from China and India alone. By contrast, the United States and the European Union countries are expected to account for just over a quarter of young people with tertiary degrees in OECD and G20 countries. 

In fact, these figures may underestimate the future growth of the global talent pool, because a number of countries – notably China, the European Union countries, and the U.S. – are pursuing initiatives to increase higher education attainment rates even further. 

The explosive growth of the  talent pool raises a key question: With all of these highly-educated people emerging around the world, will the global labour market be able to absorb the increased supply?  
Evidence from science and technology occupations – key “knowledge economy” jobs – suggests that it can. Between 1998 and 2008, employment in science and technology occupations increased at a faster rate than total employment in all OECD and G20 countries with available data. The average annual growth rate was uniformly positive, ranging from 0.3% in China to 5.9% in Iceland. 

This consistently upward trend signals that the demand for employees in this knowledge economy sector hasn’t reached its ceiling. Applied to the overall labour market, the implication is that individuals from increasingly better-educated populations will continue to have good employment outcomes, as long as national economies continue to become more knowledge-based.  

As such, countries may be well-advised to pursue efforts to build their knowledge economies, in order to avoid skills mismatches and lower returns on education among their higher-educated populations in the future.

For more information
On this topic, visit:
Education Indicators in Focus: www.oecd.org/education/indicators 
On the OECD’s education indicators, visit:
Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators: www.oecd.org/edu/eag2011 
On the OECD’s Indicators of Education Systems (INES) programme, visit:
INES Programme overview brochure (link)

See also: IMHE General Conference 2012 "Attaining and Sustaining Mass Higher Education", Paris, 17-19 September 2012
Chart source: OECD Database, UNESCO and National Statistics websites for Argentina,
China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

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Are Teachers Getting the Recognition They Deserve?

by Kristen Weatherby
Senior Analyst, Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS)

More and more countries are having discussions about how to evaluate the quality of their teaching workforce and, subsequently, how to reward teachers for their work. The OECD’s newest series of briefs, Teaching in Focus, launches this month with a discussion of the appraisal and feedback teachers receive and the impact of both on their teaching.

Teaching is often thought to be an isolating profession, with teachers receiving little or no feedback that enables them to improve their teaching practice. Data from the  Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS)  supports this claim in many countries, indicating that more than one in five of all teachers in the 24 countries surveyed report never received a formal appraisal of their teaching practice. Indeed even those teachers who are receiving formal appraisals may not ever learn the results of those appraisals. In several countries, teachers reported never receiving any feedback on their work regardless of whether they had received a formal appraisal.

Yet teachers are eager for information that will help them improve their teaching. The vast majority of teachers (79%) feel that the appraisal and feedback they have received are helpful in the development of their work. Those teachers who do receive appraisal and feedback report changes in their teaching practice as a result of this information, especially in the areas of improving student test scores, student discipline and classroom management. Furthermore, teachers in nearly half of TALIS countries find that being publicly recognised for their work is closely connected to their own feelings of self-efficacy.

The message seems pretty clear: If countries want to improve the quality of their teachers, they need to provide teachers with feedback on their teaching that helps them make changes to their practice.

To learn more about this topic, check out this month’s Teaching in Focus brief. Look for further Teaching in Focus briefs on topics relevant to the experience of teachers in the coming months.

Follow TALIS and Kristen Weatherby @Kristen_Talis
Photo credit: Blue stage with falling stars / Shutterstock
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Taking stock of education and skills: the youth perspective

With his vantage point at the helm of the largest youth platform in the world, European Youth Forum (YFJ) President Peter Matjašič is well placed to assess the state of education and skills across Europe. Indeed, the YFJ represents millions of young people by way of national councils from Iceland to Azerbaijan, lobbying such important international bodies as the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations to adopt policies that are in the best interests of European youth.

Educationtoday met with him at the OECD Forum to get his views on the state of young people's education and skills across the continent today.

educationtoday: How can today's students and young workers prepare themselves for rapidly evolving labour markets? 

Peter  Matjašič: The YFJ has been working on education since its inception fifteen years ago, focusing on quality and equality of access. We have a holistic view of education. Formal education must be supplemented by non-formal education, by which I mean you still have an organised activity, but one that is not organised by universities or colleges but by youth organisations, for example. Plus informal learning, which is what you gain from life experience.

Education is not necessarily enough. What we strive for is what we call youth autonomy. And to make the transition to the labour market, there are certain tools, such as internships.

The Youth Guarantee is another measure to ensure no young people are out of employment, school or training for more than four months. It means there are public programmes that ensure young people can get an internship or be retrained.

educationtoday: How do you ensure companies don't simply use internships as a means to get skilled young workers at little cost? 

Matjašič: First of all, for us it was important to put things into perspective. To do this, we carried out a survey of 4 000 interns across Europe last summer. We found the majority of interns enjoy being an intern, but at the same time they are aware of their precarious status. So, internships can be good tools if they're managed properly. For example, interns should be paid at least the minimum wage of the country they work in. To ensure this, we developed the European Quality Charter On Internships and Apprenticeships and pushed EU policymakers to propose it. The commission picked it up and will present a proposal themselves.

educationtoday: You mentioned entrepreneurship. This involves a certain measure of independent-mindedness and creativity. How do you think schools can better equip young people with these qualities?

Matjašič: The so-called life skills, or soft skills, are not being acquired through education. The value of peer-to-peer education you get in youth organisations is immense. Education needs to be hands-on with analytical thinking, which tends to be more the case in Northern Europe, whereas in Southern Europe teaching is often more ex-cathedra, where students simply learn what the teacher tells them. And this model in times of crisis fails young people in that studying hard is no longer enough to get a job.

I would also add that the way society sees entrepreneurship needs to be changed. Today, too many young people see it as solely about profit.

educationtoday: To what extent do you feel there is a skills mismatch today in Europe? 

Matjašič: The problem is in part because there's a disconnect between education and jobs. But at the same time, we aim to foster autonomous and active citizens. We don't want young people to be told, for example, they have to study mechanics because that's where jobs are. They need to be informed to make the right decisions. Proper career orientation in schools is key.

educationtoday:  Do you think there is a problem of over-skilled or over-educated young people today?

Matjašič: From a technical perspective, in terms of the level of education they have, yes. However, if you look at the actual knowledge young people have, I have my doubts as to whether they're over-skilled. They're definitely over-educated for certain things. But I would say it's more up to the individual today. People feel they need a master's degree because a bachelor's is not good enough anymore, so you have a proliferation of degrees, which makes them less valuable. The knowledge is no longer the focus, and I see this as a danger. We don't want education to just be a tool to enter the labour market

educationtoday: What can be done to ensure young people today have a broad education that allows them to be active citizens? 

Matjašič: Non-formal education, informal learning and volunteering need to be recognized. People can then have specific knowledge from formal education and life skills from youth organisations, for example. Interdisciplinary approaches are also important.

European Youth Forum
OECD Skills Strategy
OECD Forum 2012
Photo credit: OECD Video Invest in skills to boost jobs and growth
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Skills revolution will come from the grassroots

Sanjit Bunker Roy figured out pretty early on that it does, indeed, take a village; in fact, it takes a village to keep a village. He founded the Barefoot College in India in 1972 on the premise that for any rural development activity to be successful and sustainable, it must be both based in the village and managed and owned by those whom it serves. The College, a non-governmental organisation, serves rural men and women of all ages, all of whom are barely literate (if at all) and have no hope of getting even the lowest government job, by providing training in such skills as solar engineering, water drilling, hand-pump engineering, masonry, architecture, and computing.

Marilyn Achiron, Editor of the Education Department caught up with Roy when he was in Paris to speak at the OECD Forum. He’s not one to mince his words:

“We are facing a disaster of monumental proportions,” says Roy. “We’re training people to leave the village, not to stay in the village. We’re encouraging migration at a colossal level from village to city. As a result, we’re losing all the traditional knowledge and skills that used to be in the village. Does anyone at the mover-and-shaker level have the courage and vision to turn this around? We’re already set in a pattern that we can’t break.”

According to Roy, whom Time magazine named one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2010, the big international donors are part of the problem, and not enough of the solution. “People aren’t listening enough. The biggest problem with the big donors is that they don’t have the ability or the humility to listen to what’s happening on the ground. We need to respect traditional knowledge and skills; you cannot be educated at the expense of tradition. It’s a balance. There’s a real urgent situation out there and we’re not treating it with urgency.”

A dissatisfaction with policies designed in the relative comfort of developed-world capitals while more than one in five people in the world live on less than USD 1.25 a day comes across clearly. The OECD is not spared Roy’s frustration: “The OECD’s attitude towards education is outdated. In the non-organised, informal world, people have no access to water, electricity, formal education. The OECD’s attitude is dangerous. They have to revisit it and adapt it to the reality on the ground. They have lost touch.” Even the OECD Skills Strategy, released earlier this week already needs updating:  “There will be a skills revolution from the grassroots. The current thinking has to change. The question is: How do you recognise skills that people already have and apply them in the situation in which they live? The OECD is very backwards in its thinking.”

Between 2007 and 2011, the Barefoot College trained some 300 grandmothers, from 29 countries throughout Africa, in solar technologies. After their six-month training course—paid for, along with their air fare, by the Indian government—they went back to their villages and solar electrified some 15,000 houses. Says Roy, “These illiterate grandmothers know more about the repair and maintenance of solar lamps and installations than any graduate of any five-year university anywhere in the world. And if anyone wants to challenge me on it, I’d be delighted.”

Barefoot College
Watch the TED Talk: Bunker Roy: Learning from a barefoot movement
OECD Skills Strategy
Visit our interactive portal on skills: http://skills.oecd.org
OECD Forum 2012
Photo credit: Colourful feet / Shutterstock

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Hong Kong’s success in PISA – One system, many actors

by Andreas Schleicher
Deputy Director for Education and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD's Secretary General
Hong Kong is perhaps the PISA top-performer about which I knew the least. So, on the invitation of the authorities, I took a few days of annual leave to learn more about this system. It turned out to be a very rewarding experience. What interested me most was to find out how Hong Kong, with its market-driven approach in virtually every field of public service, had been able to combine high levels of student performance with a high degree of social equity in the distribution of educational opportunities.

With the majority of schools run by private entities, the government has few levers for direct intervention and parents have a powerful influence on schools, both through their choice of schools (though still banded) and through local control. They sit on school management committees, parent-teacher associations and on home-school co-operation committees. Permanent Secretary Cherry Tse concluded that parents have more influence on what happens on the ground than the Education Bureau. The vibrant cyber-community has added to the tremendous pressures on schools to maintain a high quality of education.

Most leading newspapers have education pages that deal on a daily basis with policy debates as well as disputes in schools. Ruth Lee, an inspiring principal from Ying Wa Girls’ School, one of Hong Kong’s elite schools that I visited, explained how principals and teachers face a daily struggle to balance administrative accountability, client accountability and professional accountability while keeping their focus firmly on nurturing well-rounded children and helping parents see beyond their children’s entry to university (the backdrop for this is that schooling in Hong Kong used to be the domain of philanthropy and it was only when the economy gathered strengths in the 1960s that the government began to chip in with subsidising education).

Education as a cross-government priority
All that does not mean that education isn’t a government priority. On the contrary, at 23%, Hong Kong devotes more of its public budget to education than any OECD country, realising that it is talent that transforms the lives of its citizens and drives its economy. What struck me even more was that education isn’t just the domain of the Education bureau, but that it features high on the agenda of virtually every other government agency too. For example, Robin Ip, Deputy Head of Hong Kong’s Central Policy Unit explained how important the development and deployment of talent features as a cross-government priority. His unit provides the eyes and ears of the Chief Executive across the different government departments and builds advice on how Hong Kong can maintain its competitive edge in areas such as financing, trade and shipping, nurturing emerging industries (education included), and deepen economic co-operation with mainland China. And when I visited the Ministry of Finance, Salina Yan, Deputy Secretary for Financial Services underlined the deep commitment of her sector to both nurturing local talent in the financial domain as well as attracting the most highly skilled from abroad. Also Ho Wai Chi, Assistant Director of the Independent Commission Against Corruption and his team explained how that agency deploys almost a fifth of its staff to education and community relations throughout the territory, with the aim of moving the agenda from fighting corruption to preventing it, and building a climate of trust in the rule of law and the institutions protecting it. That includes work on a secondary school curriculum that builds confidence in the rule of law, deals with ethical dilemmas and seeks to change the agency’s image from sending people to jail to sustaining the system. Hong Kong’s move up to rank 12 on Transparency International’s index of perceived corruption, and perhaps even more so, the fact that over 70% of corruption-related complaints are now posted non-anonymously, illustrate how far along the way Hong Kong has come - compared to the 1960s when corruption and a climate of fear and violence had been endemic in virtually every aspect of life. On the plane leaving Hong Kong for Shanghai I saw the front page article of the South China Morning Post quoting the chief prosecutor as demanding that not even the Chief Executive should be immune from prosecution.

Educational reform
I had interesting sharing sessions with Permanent Secretary Tse, Under Secretary Chen and his Deputy and Assistant Secretaries, the head of the Assessment Authority as well as leading academics from the major universities on key educational reform challenges in Hong Kong and the world around it. Hong Kong aims high in its educational ambitions, both as a systemic goal and to meet individual aspirations. It is always difficult to say which of the factors observed are due to cultural assets and which are due to policy interventions and practices. They are intertwined. But it is intriguing to see how Hong Kong has drawn together educational experience from the Eastern and Western world to design a world class education system. You see that in everyday life too, they treat their guests with the hospitality of the Chinese way but queue on the bus the British way.

2012 is a year of particular importance for Hong Kong’s education system; it is the first year in which the generation that has gone through the new integrated education system will graduate. Results from PISA suggest that Hong Kong is on the right track, showing high performance standards as well as important improvements in students’ metacognitive skills and confidence as learner. But the test of truth will come in August when the new Diploma of Secondary education will be handed out, a day that school leaders, teachers, parents (and not least the administration) are anxiously awaiting. The learner-centred reforms underlying this new system have been far-reaching, paralleling similar developments in other high performing education system. They involved significant expansion of educational opportunity as well as a shift in emphasis from teaching to learning, from fact memorisation to development of learning capacities, and from economic needs to individual needs. The broadened and more flexible curriculum seeks a better balance between intellectual, social, moral, physical and aesthetical aspects, with much greater emphasis on transversal skills including foundation skills, career-related competencies, thinking skills, people skills as well as values and attitudes. The reforms have also included more funding flexibility in support of schools. All of this has pushed schools and teachers to take a professional stand and exercise professional autonomy within a collaborative culture.

And yet, it is clearly visible that education in Hong Kong faces serious tensions. It is the tension between what is desirable for the long-term and what is needed in the short-term; between the global and local; between the academic, personal, social and economic goals of the curriculum; between competition and co-operation; between specialisation and attention to the whole person; between knowledge transmission and knowledge creation and between the aspiration of a new innovative curriculum and a powerful private tutoring industry narrowly focused on exam preparation; between uniformity and diversity and between assessment for selection and assessment for development.

The system is now also more subject to the political economy than what used to be the case: Since reunification with China, policies are no longer determined by technocrats, but by politicians with an eye on re-election. With teachers and school leaders a large and vocal part of the electorate, maintaining the high quality examination and assessment regime is already proving a struggle. So far, policy makers have also shied away from any consolidation of the school system which seems inevitable in light of the demographic shifts with rapidly declining student numbers - if Hong Kong wants to avoid a downward spiral of rising costs associated with shrinking school and class sizes that drive out needed investments for attracting and developing teachers and the establishment of a 21st century learning environment.

An amazing environment
Another surprise for me has been Hong Kong’s beautiful landscape. What I knew from Hong Kong was the sprawling urban environment that looks like built by SimCity (with the disaster function turned off for a long time). But it took just an hour with the Government Flying Service to turn that impression upside down. Soon after the helicopter had left the Government complex the landscape was dominated by forests, natural parks and wetlands known by birdwatchers that cover 70% of the territory. As Robin Ip and his staff from the Central Policy Unit explained, maintaining a balance between the immense pressure to expand urban development in order to provide affordable housing, on the one hand, and preserving Hong Kong’s natural and cultural heritage, on the other, will be an ever-tougher challenge. The incoming administration will no doubt be tempted to hand out sweets by developing new housing, but the resistance this will meet at local levels from town planning board and environmental activists should not be underestimated. This is Hong Kong. You will see some demonstration almost every day and you have to make your way to the HBSC headquarters through the tents of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Right across the boundary I could see the endless city of Shenzhen of China’s Guangdong province covered in smog, which does not seem to weigh such tradeoffs between economic development and the environment, and which has now absorbed virtually all of Hong Kong’s manufacturing industry. Close to a quarter of a million people pass the massive crossing points of Lok Ma Chou and Man Kam To each day, illustrating the rapid integration of Hong Kong’s economy with that of mainland China.

One-China, Two Systems
Can the ‘One-China Two-Systems’ policy be sustained in these circumstances or will Hong Kong simply be submerged? Different from twenty years ago, the distinction between the two systems can no longer be discerned from a helicopter, it is no longer visible in the infrastructure and hardware. When it comes to the ‘software’ though, the institutions and rule of law, Hong Kong’s autonomy seems yet unchallenged. At a meeting in the Department of Justice Paul Tsang, in charge of treaties and law, explained that, so far, there had just been three cases with questions about the interpretation of Hong Kong’s basic law – and all initiated by Hong Kong. Moreover, agreement has now also been reached on the mutual enforcement of law, such that cases can be heard in Hong Kong’s independent judicial system and then be enforced in mainland China. I also met with Daniel Cheng, Deputy Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs and his colleagues, who oversee the implementation of the One-China Two-Systems policy and who are the guardians of Hong Kong’s democratic institutions and independent judicial system, to learn more about the implementation of this policy. This was another instructive briefing session and what struck me most was how much mutual benefit both Hong Kong and mainland China derive from this. There are some obvious areas, such as the growing trade and the division of labour that serve both parts well, or the “firewalled” currency policies which Hong Kong offers for mainland China through the emerging offshore trading of the RMB. But it seems Hong Kong provides a testing ground for mainland China in many other areas too, and mainland China seems to learn fast from the ways in which Hong Kong does things and how its institutions operate. Paul Tsang recounted how Hong Kong’s assistance to the regions affected by the great earthquake in Szechuan had fundamentally changed the ways in which companies and the authorities in the area establish business relationships and contracts. So the return on the 80m Euro assistance which Hong Kong had provided for disaster relief will no doubt be high – and for both sides. Both sides are keen to consolidate what has been achieved and the complementarities and synergies between the two systems are now enshrined in China’s five-year development plan.

But not everybody is so confident that this will work out in the long term. At the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s parliament, I met Representative Alan Leoung, who was deeply suspicious about the viability of the One-China Two-Systems policies, fearing that Hong Kong will end up with elections Chinese style (where everyone can vote but some opaque nomination committee will hold the gateway as to who can stand for election). He was already much concerned about the functioning of the political system today, where the functional constituencies guarantee vested interests a firm base in parliament, and where the 4m Hong Kong dollar in funds raised by the opposition parties compare against over 70m Hong Kong dollar raised by the parties supporting the government.

Perhaps it is the financial sector that will provide the most reliable barometer for the successful implementation of the One-China Two-Systems policy. Judged by that standard, Hong Kong has so far moved from strengths to strengths since reunification. Salina Yan’s office is located right next to the Chief Executive’s Building, and that is not just by coincidence. This is a country in which the Secretaries for Finance and Justice rank higher than any other government minister. Salina Yan portrayed an impressive trajectory for how Hong Kong had evolved into the international banking and asset management centre and open insurance market that it is today, with a market capitalisation that ranks 6th in the World and 2nd in Asia. Over a quarter of Hong Kong’s GDP now comes from trade and logistics, another 15% from financial services and 13% from professional services. Well over a third of the employment is in the financial services.
It is only logical that Hong Kong is a staunch supporter of the multilateral trading system including its principles of non-discrimination, with no tariffs on imports, no subsidies for exports and a level playing field for foreign and local enterprises. Rigorous international benchmarking and peer-learning are omnipresent.

But the financial sector too is facing challenges too. While Hong Kong had a strategic first-mover advantage in the financing sector of the region, other global cities are waking up. And there are important challenges on the expenditure side too. To maintain its competitive edge, the law requires Hong Kong to keep public spending below 20% (with a three-year window to smoothen out cyclical effects). So while the income side is fixed, Hong Kong’s rapidly ageing population, growing income inequalities and other social factors are putting immense pressure on the expenditure side. The government is acutely aware of these challenges and trade-offs, not least, as Cindy Kwan from the Central Policy Unit explained, through their weekly survey of opinions and attitudes among Hong Kong’s population. Like most other countries, however, it is struggling with finding convincing answers to these challenges and, like other democracies too, it needs to weight the long-term interests of the territory against the short-term demands from its citizens.

OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)
Video Series: Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education 
OECD Department for Education
Photo credit: School warning sign /Shutterstock
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“I’ve been driven by goals”

Ellen MacArthur, Founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, was in Paris this week to speak on entrepreneurship and skills at the OECD Forum. She was interviewed by Marilyn Achiron, Editor of the Education Department.

In 2001, a 24-year-old Ellen MacArthur fulfilled a 20-year dream and sailed, single-handedly non-stop around the world in the Vendée Globe. Not only did she achieve her goal, she also came in second in one of the hardest races in sailing. Three years later, she broke the speed record for circumnavigating the globe, alone, on a trimaran.

Today, MacArthur has set herself another challenge: to change, fundamentally, how we think about and use the world’s resources. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, established in 2010, links education and business in a drive towards a circular economy. The idea of the circular economy is based on “systems thinking”, the acknowledgement that nothing occurs in a vacuum; that context matters. And the context we’re all living in right now is that of finite natural resources.

When asked, MacArthur says she is driven by goals; but that seems only half the story: the other half is passion. You hear it when she speaks of her first sailing experience, as a 4-year-old, with her “auntie”: “It was the greatest feeling of freedom I could ever imagine. That boat could have taken us anywhere in the world.” And you hear it when she speaks of her work now: “The ‘big click’ happened when I first started to understand the circular economy. It’s a whole different system. Suddenly I had the same feeling I had as a 4-year-old.”

In her 20s, the context of MacArthur’s life was the confines of impossibly small vessels. “You realise what ‘finite’ means; how you behave when you have limited resources.” Now, the context may seem far larger, but the constraints are no less challenging: “We don’t have enough resources to sustain our economy. You can re-start your boat at the end of a race, but you can’t do that with finite resources.”

In addition to making the case for a circular economy among business leaders her Foundation is piloting, testing and producing materials for secondary school teachers based on systems thinking and “restorative” recycling that can be built into the design of nearly everything we use, from washing machines through cars and carpets to packaging. “When people learn about recycling, they learn that they should be doing less. And everything they’re learning is, at best, just buying time. It doesn’t inspire creativity and innovation. In the circular economy, there’s an extraordinary message about what you can do, not what you can’tdo. And that message comes through in the classroom and in the boardroom.”

MacArthur recounts how, in front of a class of teachers, she takes what looks like a plastic bag, stuffs it into a glass of hot water, watches the bag dissolve and then drinks the nutrient-filled contents of the glass: a show-and-tell of how design for a circular economy can feed (in this case, literally) the future. The teachers, she says, “are not used to seeing that; they’re not used to the idea of a circular economy. It’s an exciting way to teach.” And what they’re learning, at the same time, is a notion that is central to a circular economy: that consumers pay for performance, not for the material product. “You look at how you can design something so that you can re-sell and re-manufacture it.

“The idea of the circular economy is an enabler for young people—and for businesses,” says MacArthur. “The more creative they are, the better. That’s what it’s all about.”


Photo credit: Nautilus shell / Shutterstock
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Better skills and better policies lead to better lives for women

by Michelle Bachelet
United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women
The global economic crisis, with high levels of unemployment, especially among youth, and rising inequality, with large wage gaps between high- and low-skilled workers, has added urgency to the need for better skills. This is especially important for women, who already face barriers to participating fully in the economy. Investing in their skills from early childhood, through compulsory education, and throughout their working life can transform women’s lives and drive economies. Equally important are better policies to promote equal rights and opportunities and women’s full participation in public life.

Investment in skills is particularly important during these tough economic times.  Skilled workers play a crucial role in generating future jobs and economic growth. Women’s entry into the labour market has been an important driver of European economic growth in the past decade. Research finds that closing the female-male employment gap would have positive economic implications for developed economies, boosting US GDP by as much as 9% and euro area GDP by as much as 13%. A 2011 report by the International Labor Organization and the Asia Development Bank revealed that a gender equality gap in employment rates for women cost Asia USD 47 billion annually – 45% of women remained outside the workplace compared to 19% of men.

It is time to remove the barriers to women’s full participation in the economy. The OECD has found that the main reason 25-39-year-old women cite for choosing to work part-time is their care responsibilities. The same reason is given when inactive women are asked why they don’t participate in the labour market at all.  Globally, women are still responsible for 60% to 80% of household chores and childcare. Worldwide, women account for 58% of unpaid work.

Although 552 million women joined the global labor force between 1980 and 2008, and research shows that reducing the gender employment gap improves economic growth, millions of women remain marginalised from the formal economy. In Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, only about one-quarter of adult women were in the labour force in 2010, compared with 70% to 80% participation rates among adult men.

An agenda for equality is needed that includes better skills and better policies so that women can exercise their economic, social, cultural and civil rights and economies can be healthier and more inclusive. Policies are urgently needed to help women and men reconcile work and family responsibilities, through the provision of childcare and maternity and paternity leave, and flexible working hours. Tax and pension systems also need to be revisited and revised to encourage equality.

When it comes to promoting women’s economic empowerment, we are not starting from scratch. There are many important initiatives taking place in all regions, including in low- and middle-income countries, to ensure economic justice and security for women. These include flexible childcare that enables women to participate in the labour force, fair pensions to ensure that older women do not live in poverty, cash transfers to enable families to send their girls to school, and training that gives women skills in entrepreneurship and new technologies. Our challenge is to make the equality agenda universal. In 2013, UN Women will use our flagship report, Progress of the World’s Women, to present evidence on the policies that work, to enable countries to learn from one another and drive the change we want to see.

UN Women
For the OECD Skills Strategy go to: http://skills.oecd.org
See also OECD work on:

OECD Work on Gender via www.oecd.org/gender

Gender equality and women's empowerment
Early Childhood Education and Care
OECD Forum 2012
Photo credit: Girl with balloons /Shutterstock

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Discussing education and skills with the 2012 OECD Global Youth Competition winners

The winners of the 2012 OECD Video Competition hail from no fewer than three continents and four very different countries: Uganda, India, South Korea and Australia. Yet despite this, the videos they made on education and skills all highlight the need for major change in education systems if they are to provide young people with the skills necessary to thrive in the 21st century.

Kato Jonan, 24, (Uganda) Rachit Sai Barak, 20 (India), Sharon Chan, 24 (Australia), and Young Bu Kwon, 25 (Korea), sat down with us to expand on their views on education and skills.

educationtoday: Your videos all touch on the inadequacies of formal education. In what ways can schools better equip young people with the skills they need to have successful careers and be engaged citizens?

Rachit: Schools are competitive and stressful in India. The government treats young people as a future resource rather than treating them as a stakeholder. The focus should be on providing youth with life skills.

Kato: Students see education as something they have to go through without thinking of what it can help them become or what jobs it can help them get. The government should put aside some funds to create institutions to teach young people practical skills when they're not in school.

Sharon: Schools focus too heavily on books and studying. They need to look at skills outside of the classroom and help students apply those skills and fine-tune them. They should create a strong relationship with the community to see what skills are required.

Young Bu: Many Koreans think education is the only way to get a job, but then when they get a job they are disappointed. They learn and learn but they don't know what their goals are.

Kato: What I think should be done is to provide mentors to young people so they can decide what they want to do.

educationtoday: Do you think focusing on providing young people with the right skills for the job market is a good approach? 

Sharon: I think you can talk to employers to see what they require and try to build that into students' education, but at the same time what students require should be considered. That could be achieved through mentoring programmes.

Rachit: Education is not just about skills and jobs, it's about knowledge. I think the Better Life Index is a great example to look at. It would be good to give that wide perspective to children.

Kato: If the government wants to encourage people to take up certain professions, they have to start from childhood. But students should not have to pay for their education, as is the case today in Africa.

Rachit: The focus should be on potential not skills.

educationtoday: In your opinion, what are the key skills young people should be taught? 

Sharon: Decision making, the ability to innovate, problem solving and critical thinking are all important.

Rachit: Government should focus on life skills and practical skills.

Kato: I think we need entrepreneurial skills and computer literacy.

Young Bu: The most important thing for young people is to know themselves.

educationtoday: The need for creativity and innovation is a common thread in your videos. How can schools encourage creativity and and ultimately foster entrepreneurship?

Sharon: My school had a lot of competitions and projects where I had to think for myself and solve different problems. In my opinion, it's something schools can't teach you; they can help you develop it.

Rachit: In India, you see almost no use of music or dance in school. They can be used to help children learn, but they're not considered important. Using these arts to teach can help young people think differently.

Kato: They need to put students in concrete situations. In Uganda, we have a subject called Entrepreneurship, but you don't acquire any practical skills, you simply memorise information to pass an exam.

Young Bu: In Korea, students spend around 12 hours per day studying. We're not taught to discuss, to communicate; we're just taught to study. We learn by memorising, so there is little creativity. There should be free time at school where students can do what they want.

Sharon: There should be an environment that provides support and allows students to take risks.

Kato: Children who have non-academic skills should also be given a chance.

educationtoday: Your videos also touch on the power of co-operation to help children learn effectively. How do you think schools can be made more co-operative?

Sharon: Teamwork is the ideal scenario for encouraging co-operation.

Rachit: There should be collaboration among different fields, such as science, commerce and humanities.

Kato: It should be introduced in lower levels. It's often considered cheating when students work together, but that's what happens in companies.
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Business in-a-box: a global skills solution

by John Hope Bryant 
Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Chairman, Subcommittee on the Underserved and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability, bestselling Inc. Magazine/CEO READ business author for Love Leadership: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass)

OECD has just launched their OECD Skills Strategy, which I fully support. I call it the global-common-sense-plan-for-educational-relevancy.The OECD Skills Strategy seeks to powerfully re-connect the power of education with youth aspirations globally, maybe for the first time in a generation.  Quoting my friend Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, in his breakthrough book The Coming Jobs War, "this is the playoff game for the rest of our lives."

The roots of the crisis now gripping Greece, and Europe in general, is not social it's economics and jobs. The main complaint of the Occupy Movement is is economic in nature. The youth led riots in the suburbs of both Paris and London were rooted in economics and jobs, or the powerful lack thereof. The crisis that sparked what many call the Arab Spring, with Mohammad setting himself ablaze in Tunisia, was rooted in local economics and his job. His financial dignity. Specifically, Mohammad had his cart business taken from him, which represented for him his human and financial dignity, the way he fed his children and kept a roof over his family's head.  His job, and thus his aspirations in life, was a large part of his identity.

A young HOPE Fellow at Operation HOPE told me recently that "you cannot have social justice unless you first have economic justice." I agree, and thus the movement today has to be more about silver rights empowerment than simply civil rights justice. Or quoting my friend Richard Cordray, head of the new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "as John Hope Bryant told me, and I believe, if we had more consumer empowerment we would need less consumer protection."

What every young person in school around the world wants is essentially the same thing; they want a shot at "a good job," or an authentic opportunity to exercise their economic energy in a way to connects their aspiration with real and sustainable opportunity.

What if we could reconnect the power of aspiration with the power of education in our children's lives? What if a child in elementary school could start a business for $50-100 (U.S.?)? A middle school student could do the same with up to $200, or up to $500 for a high school student?  What if they could get a financial literacy course and a course in dignity, connected with a primer course in entrepreneurship?

They could select from 25 businesses that can be started for $500 or less, pitch their idea for this business in front of a live audience of business role models from their community, get a Business-In-a-Box Youth Entrepreneurship Grant, a business role model, and even a bank account--how would that change their lives? How would that bring the power of aspiration and imagination, and hope back to their educational experience? We think it changes everything. HOPE Business in-a-box, formally launched this Fall in schools across America, will channel and transform a youth’s natural aspiration and state of hope into practical and life changing action steps.  Action steps that they can move on themselves, with a little help from HOPE and our influential friends.

Now imagine this as a global solution, to the sustained youth jobs desert in developed countries today, as well as the jobs crisis from Africa, to Asia, to Latin America, to the 100 million jobs estimated to be needed soon in the Middle East, just for the youth population there. Imagine what could happen if you could double the level of financial literacy in a specific school house, and then double the level of economic energy in that same school house, and then triple or quadruple the level of business role models in that same school house, over a 5-year period of time (it will happen much sooner than that by the way).  You simply change everything in that school, with those youth.  You crush the high school dropout rate crisis in developed countries, because all youth want is a "good job" or economic opportunity.  You also set your nation up for sustained future success, because you are defining your future based on the only real asset you have  the future aspirations of your youth, and their very real connection with local GDP growth in your town, township, city, state and country.

For America, that means the 30 million young people, grades 4-12th, aged 8-18, are the farm club and bench strength for the playoff game of the rest of our lives.  How we field and play that game will decide everything pin 2025.  We are starting now.

For more information on:
John Hope Bryant
Operation HOPE Business-in-a-box 
The OECD Skills Strategy: http://skills.oecd.org
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Everybody into the talent pool

by Marilyn Achiron 
Editor, Directorate for Education

The OECD has just formulated a Skills Strategy to help countries make the most of their peoples’ talents.

How does one even begin to consider an issue as complex as skills? We found that visualising the supply of skills as a talent pool helps. The idea is to create a larger and larger pool of people who have fully developed their skills, encourage those people to supply their skills to the labour market, and then ensure that those skills are used effectively on the job. This new animated video will show you what we mean. 

To download the report:  Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives: The OECD Skills Strategy   – and much find out more about skills and skills policies around the world – visit our interactive skills web portal: http://skills.oecd.org

Follow the launch of the Skills Strategy and join the debates on @OECD_Edu  #OECDSkills
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It all starts with building the right skills

by Andreas Schleicher
Deputy Director for Education and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD's Secretary General

Skills transform lives and drive economies. Without the right skills, people are kept on the margins of society, technological progress does not translate into economic growth, and countries can’t compete in today’s economies. But the toxic co-existence of unemployed graduates and employers who say that they cannot find the people with the skills they need, shows that skills don't automatically translate into better economic and social outcomes. The OECD has put together a strategy that helps countries transform skills into better jobs and better lives.

It all starts with building the right skills. Anticipating the evolution of the demand for labour is the essential starting point. We then need to improve the quality of learning outcomes, by putting a premium on skills-oriented learning throughout life instead of qualifications-focused education upfront. That’s about fostering relevant learning. Skills development is far more effective if the world of learning and the world of work are linked. Compared to purely government-designed curricula taught exclusively in schools, learning in the workplace allows young people to develop “hard” skills on modern equipment, and “soft” skills, such as teamwork, communication and negotiation, through real-world experience. Hands-on workplace training can also help to motivate disengaged youth to stay in or re-engage with education and smooth the transition to work. Data from our new Adult Skills Survey (PIAAC) provide powerful evidence of that. While you learn when you are in education between the ages of 16 and 25, the learning curve is even steeper if you combine education with work.

All of this is everybody’s business; and we need to deal with the tough question of who should pay for what, when and how, particularly for learning beyond school. Social partners can help in developing curricula that include broader, transferable skills and ensuring that good-quality training is available to all. Employers can do a lot more to create a climate that supports learning, and invest in it. Some individuals can shoulder more of the financial burden. And governments can do a lot to design rigorous standards, provide financial incentives and create a safety net so that all people have access to high quality learning.

But even the best skills simply evaporate if they aren’t maintained and upgraded to meet the changing needs of societies. There are people who are highly skilled who have decided not to work. Why? They may be too busy caring for children or elderly parents; they may have health problems; or they may have calculated that it just doesn’t pay to work. The answer is that we need to make better use of our talent pool.

Equally important, we need to ensure that skills are used effectively at work. OECD data show the link between how skills are used on the job and people’s earnings prospects and productivity. If you have great skills and have a demanding job, you’re fine, and your earnings continue to increase. If you don't yet have the skills but your job is demanding, you’ll see progress too. But if your employer does not use your skills, the earnings over your lifetime tend to deteriorate.

So what can we do about this? Quality career guidance is essential. People who have the latest labour-market information can help steer individuals to the education or training that would best prepare them for their prospective careers. Helping young people to gain a foothold in the labour market is fundamental too. Vocational training is a very effective way to achieve this. Coherent and easy-to-understand qualifications help employers identify potential employees who are suitable for the jobs they offer. And reducing the costs of moving within a country can help employees to find the jobs that match their skills and help employers to find the skills that match their jobs.

There may be young people just starting out who are well educated but have trouble finding jobs that put their education and training to good use. What most people don’t realise is that we can shape the demand for skills. Often we think that the demand for skills is as it is, and we just need to educate people to meet existing demand. That is a big mistake. There is much that governments and employers can to do promote knowledge-intensive industries and jobs that require high-skilled workers. Adding these kinds of high value-added jobs to a labour market helps to get more people working—and for better pay.

Last but not least, education that fosters entrepreneurship can help create jobs. Indeed, education is where entrepreneurship is often born.

In short, we’re all in this together – and there’s a lot more that we all can do to develop the right skills and turn them into better jobs and better lives.

To download the report:  Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives: The OECD Skills Strategy   – and much find out more about skills and skills policies around the world – visit our interactive skills web portal: http://skills.oecd.org

Follow the launch of the Skills Strategy and join the debates on @OECD_Edu and @SchleicherEdu #OECDSkills

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What should students learn in the 21st century?

By Charles Fadel
Founder & chairman, Center for Curriculum Redesign 
Vice-chair of the Education committee of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Visiting scholar, Harvard GSE, MIT ESG/IAP and Wharton/Penn CLO

It has become clear that teaching skills requires answering “What should students learn in the 21st century?” on a deep and broad basis. Teachers need to have the time and flexibility to develop knowledge, skills, and character, while also considering the meta-layer/fourth dimension that includes learning how to learn, interdisciplinarity, and personalisation. Adapting to 21st century needs means revisiting each dimension and how they interact:

Knowledge - relevance required: Students’ lack of motivation, and often disengagement, reflects the inability of education systems to connect content to real-world experience. This is also critically important to economic and social needs, not only students’ wishes. There is a profound need to rethink the significance and applicability of what is taught, and to strike a far better balance between the conceptual and the practical. Questions that should be answered include: Should engineering become a standard part of the curriculum? Should trigonometry be replaced by more statistics? Is long division by hand necessary? What is significant and relevant in history? Should personal finance, journalism, robotics, and other new disciplines be taught to everyone - and starting in which grade? Should entrepreneurship be mandatory? Should ethics be re-valued? What is the role of the arts – and can they be used to foster creativity in all disciplines?

Skills – necessity for education outcomes: Higher-order skills (“21st Century Skills”), such as the “4 C’s” of Creativity, Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and others are essential for absorbing knowledge as well as for work performance. Yet the curriculum is already overburdened with content, which makes it much harder for students to acquire (and teachers to teach) skills via deep dives into projects. There is a reasonable global consensus on what the skills are, and how teaching methods via projects can affect skills acquisition, but there is little time available during the school year, given the overwhelming amount of content to be covered. There is also little in terms of teacher expertise in combining knowledge and skills in a coherent ensemble, with guiding materials, and assessments.

“Character” (behaviours, attitudes, values) – to face an increasingly challenging world: As complexities increase, humankind is rediscovering the importance of teaching character traits, such as performance-related traits (adaptability, persistence, resilience) and moral-related traits (integrity, justice, empathy, ethics). The challenges for public school systems are similar to those for skills, with the extra complexity of accepting that character development is also becoming an intrinsic part of the mission, as it is for private schools.

Meta-Layer:  Essential for activating transference, building expertise, fostering creativity via analogies, establishing lifelong learning habits, and so on. It will answer questions such as: How should students learn how to learn? What is the role of interdisciplinarity? What is the appropriate sequencing within subjects and between subjects? How do we develop curiosity? How do we facilitate students’ pursuing of their own passions in addition to the standard curriculum? How do we adapt curricula to local needs?

So what is actually being done to ensure that our workforce is skilled for 21st century success and  to ensure that students are skilled, ready to work and contribute to society?

The global transformation, often called the "21st century skills" movement is helping move schools closer to learning designs that better prepare students for success in learning, work and life. The OECD Skills Strategy is responding to this by shifting the focus from a quantitative notion of human capital, measured in years of formal education, to the skills people actually acquire, enhance and nurture over their lifetimes. My hope is that schools, universities and training programs will become more responsive to the workforce and societal needs of today, and students will increasingly focus on growing and applying essential 21st century skills and knowledge to real problems and issues, not just learning textbook facts and formulas.

This will raise levels of creativity and innovation, and provide better  skills , better jobs, better societies, and ultimately better lives.

21st Century Skills – Learning for Life in our Times, by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel, Wiley.
Center for Curriculum Redesign

Photo credit: Finger smileys / Shutterstock
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Another perspective on teachers’ pay

by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Directorate for Education

Thanks largely to the OECD’s work in compiling internationally comparable data on education,  the issue of teachers’ pay has quietly crept up the political agenda in more than a few countries (take the recent French presidential election and the current US presidential campaign, to name just two). PISA takes the discussion a step further. It asks: does basing teachers’ pay on their effectiveness as teachers help to improve an education system’s overall performance?

As this month’s PISA in Focus notes, about half of OECD countries reward teacher performance in different ways. For example, in the Czech Republic, England, Mexico, the Netherlands, Sweden and Turkey, outstanding teaching performance is a criterion for decisions on a teacher’s position on the base salary scale. In the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and the Slovak Republic, it is a criterion for deciding on supplemental payments that are paid annually. In Austria, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Turkey and the United States, outstanding teaching performance is used as a criterion for deciding supplemental incidental payments.

A look at the overall picture shows no relationship between average student performance in a country and the use of performance-based pay schemes. In other words, some high-performing education systems use performance-based pay while others don't. But the picture changes when taking into account how well teachers are paid overall in comparison with national income. In countries with comparatively low teachers’ salaries (less than 15% above GDP per capita), student performance tends to be better when performance-based pay systems are in place, while in countries where teachers are relatively well-paid (more than 15% above GDP per capita), the opposite is true.

But deciding on whether or not to have performance-based pay for teachers is only the first step. Measures of teacher performance must be clearly defined and be considered by teachers themselves to be fair and accurate. School systems also have to decide whether to reward individual teachers, groups of teachers or schools. And they also have to consider whether to create one “pot”, of a pre-determined sum, out of which rewards will be paid, or to be flexible enough to allow more teachers to earn rewards.

In the end, though, salary is only part of the work environment. Countries that have succeeded in making teaching an attractive profession have often done so not just through pay, but by raising the status of teaching, offering real career prospects, and giving teachers responsibility as professionals and leaders of reform. This requires teacher education that helps teachers to become innovators and researchers in education, not just civil servants who deliver curricula.

For more information:
on PISA: www.pisa.oecd.org
PISA in Focus: Does performance-based pay improve teaching?
Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders for the 21st Century: Lessons From Around The World
Photo credit: Performance / Shutterstock

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It’s a small world indeed

by Barbara Ischinger
Director for Education
Earlier this week I attended the Transforming Education Summit  in the Emirate state of Abu Dhabi. Some 15 ministers and former ministers from all regions of the world, from countries in all stages of development found—perhaps surprisingly—a lot they could agree on when it comes to education: the importance of raising the status of the teaching profession so that qualified candidates apply, the need to strike a better gender balance among teachers at all levels of education, and the need for trust in education systems—trust between governments and teachers, and trust between parents and teachers.

What this says to me is that our expertise in education policy can and should be shared more widely; and the OECD stands ready to work with non-member countries as they seek to improve their education systems. Already, 29 of the 75 countries and economies that participated in PISA in 2009-10 were recipients of Official Development Assistance. And we see that the share of public budgets devoted to education in many ODA recipient countries is equal to or above the OECD average.

What can non-member countries gain from working with the OECD? Take participation in PISA. PISA provides internationally comparable data and benchmarks for comparing the quality of national education systems. Evaluations of education policies help non-members to better understand their PISA results, identify why their students are performing they way they are, and help these countries and economies find feasible ways of addressing shortcomings. These kinds of targeted evaluations help countries to direct money to the right places.

In addition, we can conduct peer reviews of national education policies. Since 1992, more than 70 reviews have been conducted in countries in southeast Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa region, some in collaboration with the World Bank. These reviews are jointly organised by national authorities and the OECD. Policy recommendations, which can be used for planning development aid, target all areas of education systems. They tend to stimulate broad public discussion and are used by governments and multilateral organisations as reference in shaping reforms. Perhaps most important: we talk to all stakeholders—representatives from different areas and levels of education, and unions too—at the same time.

And we learn from our experiences with non-member countries too. The OECD is proposing to introduce several new indicators to measure progress towards development. These include average teacher salary as a percentage of GDP per capita, enrolment and completion rates by education level, the school-to-work transition as measured by unemployment rates by education level, measures of equity in education achievement by gender and background characteristics, and  the extent to which highly educated students emigrate out of ODA-receiving countries, what is known as brain drain.

Throughout our 50 years of working on education policy, we’ve found that good ideas come from countries large and small. In sharing those ideas, we can create better policies for better lives all around the globe.

And speaking of our small world, if you’re interested in speaking in our small world, I recommend leafing through one of the OECD’s latest books, Languages in a Global World: Learning for Better Cultural Understanding. Did you know that the world’s seven billion people speak about 6 000 languages? That there are over 30 times as many languages as there are states? This provocative book, which sweeps from history and sociology through psychology and neuroscience, to music, philosophy and ethics, makes the case with wit and irreverence that learning languages is now more crucial than ever.

Find out more about: OECD work on education in non-member economies

Photo credit: Sphere of letters / Shutterstock
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