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How much will the literacy level of working-age people change from now to 2022?

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by François Keslair
Statistician, Directorate for Education and Skills 



Taken as a whole, the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) present a mixed picture for Korea and Singapore. As their economies have grown, these two countries’ education systems have seen fast and impressive improvements; both now rank among PISA’s top performers. However, neither Korea nor Singapore do so well in PIAAC. PIAAC measures the skills of adults aged between 16 and 65, i.e. a large majority of the population, not just the 15-year-olds pupils measured by PISA. And while the skills of younger Koreans and Singaporeans are just as impressive in PIAAC as in PISA, the same cannot be said of their elders, who did not enjoy the advantages of their current successful education systems. The skills of the older population covered by PIAAC simply cannot keep pace with such change.

But why exactly can we draw this conclusion? In other words, why do the driver…

Is the growth of international student mobility coming to a halt?

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by Dirk Van Damme
Head of the Skills Beyond School Division,  Directorate for Education and Skills


Higher education is one of the most globally integrated systems of the modern world. There still are important barriers to the international recognition of degrees or the transfer of credits, but some of the basic features of higher education enjoy global convergence and collaboration. This is most visible in the research area, where advanced research is now carried out in international networks. But also in the field of teaching and learning, the international dimension has become very important. The so-called European Higher Education Area stands out as an area where degree structures, credit transfer arrangements and quality assurance frameworks have been aligned in order to adjust qualifications with the needs of an integrated labour market.

Yet, higher education is also one of the most unequal and hierarchical systems of the modern world; globalisation has not yet made the world of h…

Is free higher education fair?

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by Andreas Schleicher 
Director, Directorate for Education and Skills 

Skills have become the currency of 21st century economies and, despite the significant increase the UK has seen in university graduation over the last decade, the earnings of workers with a Master’s degree remain over 80% higher than those of workers with just five good GCSEs or an equivalent vocational qualification. Sure, not every university graduate will end up with a great salary, but the claim that for many studying does not pay is a myth: just one in 10 university graduates earn less than half the median salary, a figure which is double for adults with only five good GCSEs, and another 22% of graduates earn between half the median and the median salary. Conversely, 21% earn more than twice the median, three times more than those with five good GCESs. Beyond the monetary benefits, higher education brings important social benefits for individuals and nations, ranging from better health through to greater social…

What matters for managing classrooms?

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by Francesca Gottschalk
Consultant, Directorate for Education and Skills 


Teaching is a demanding profession. Teachers are responsible for developing the skills and knowledge of their students, helping them overcome social and emotional hurdles and maintaining equitable, cohesive and productive classroom environments. On top of their teaching responsibilities, they are also expected to engage in continued professional development activities throughout their careers. The demands of the job are many and varied, and teachers tend to report some of the highest levels of workplace stress of any profession. This contributes to the loss of many talented and motivated individuals from the teaching workforce.

Teachers, especially the least experienced, tend to report that student disengagement and misbehaviour is one of the biggest stressors. In fact, terms like “reality shock” or “shattered dreams” are sometimes used to describe what happens when teachers are first put in front of a classroom.

How PISA measures students’ ability to collaborate

by Andreas Schleicher Director, Directorate for Education and Skills
PISA 2015 Results (Volume V) Collaborative Problem Solving – Sample Question from EduSkills OECD
Late next month (21 November, to be exact) we’ll be releasing the results PISA’s first-ever assessment of students’ ability to solve problems collaboratively. Why has PISA focused on this particular set of skills? Because in today’s increasingly interconnected world, people are often required to collaborate in order to achieve their objectives, both in the workplace and in their personal lives. Working with others is not as easy as it sounds. One person might end up reproducing another’s work; poor communication and personal tensions between people might prevent a team from reaching its goal. So it’s worth finding out whether students today know what it takes to work (and play) well with others.
This month’s PISA in Focusdescribes what it means, according to PISA, to be competent in collaborative problem solving. Along wit…

The fork in the road towards gender equality

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by Simon Normandeau
Statistician, Directorate for Education and Skills


Gender biases can be persistent. Too persistent. A simple exercise to illustrate the point: Picture a doctor or a professor. You will most likely think of a man. Now think of nurses and teachers and you are likely to imagine a woman. This unconscious gender bias is rooted in years of associating male and female attributes to specific roles in society. Inevitably, it also influences students’ career choices.
Gender differences in career aspirations are set early on. Children tend to mimic the social environment in which they grew up: boys are more drawn towards male-dominated fields while girls aspire to careers held by inspirational role models of their own gender. By the age of 15, boys and girls have already been regularly exposed to one of the most strongly gender-biased professions: teaching. On average across OECD countries, 83% of primary teachers are women; and this proportion shows no sign of shrinking anyti…

How can we tell if artificial intelligence threatens work?

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by Stuart W. Elliott
U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine


New technologies tend to shift jobs and skills. New technologies bring new products, which shift jobs across occupations: with the arrival of cars, the economy needed more assembly line workers and fewer blacksmiths. New technologies also bring new work processes, which shift skills in jobs: with the arrival of copiers, office workers needed to replace ink cartridges but not use carbon paper. Economic history is full of examples of new technologies causing such shifts.

Workers often worry that new technologies will destroy old jobs without creating new ones. However, economic history suggests that job destruction and creation have always gone together, with a shift in jobs and skills that leaves most people still employed.

Will artificial intelligence (AI) differ from past technologies in the way it shifts jobs and skills? To answer that question, we need to know which skills will be supplied by AI and w…