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What current education ministers can learn from their predecessors

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By Andreas Schleicher
Director, Directorate for Education and Skills


Photo credit: © Varkey Foundation
Last October, I attended the inaugural meeting of the Atlantis Group – an organisation comprised of former education ministers from across the world. Over the course of two days, these former ministers shared their experiences and insights in tackling common challenges, and discussed the role of political leadership in education.

It was fascinating to see former leaders share insights and common practices. But two things struck me as particularly interesting: virtually every former minister said they wished they had known on their first day what they knew on their last day; and nearly everyone wished they had been far more courageous and aware of the policy space for deep and lasting change that had actually been available.

While some new ministers will have access to a body of research and data to inform their decision-making, few will have the opportunity to learn from their predeces…

Working together to improve adult skills in Portugal

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By Andreas Schleicher Director, Directorate for Education and Skills
Photo credit: xtock/Shutterstock
In the span of a few decades, Portugal has transformed into an inclusive democracy. Its citizens enjoy a good standard of living, and despite being severely impacted by the financial crisis, the country’s economy is growing once again.

Portugal has made impressive progress in education, as well, with attainment rates rising continuously and youth academic performance fast improving. Yet although many young Portuguese people now complete their education and acquire skills that will be needed in the future – including digital skills – a large number of older, low-educated adults are at risk of falling behind.
Equipping all Portuguese adults with the right skills will be critical for Portugal and its people to address the challenges of the future and seize the opportunities it presents. More than 50% of working-age adults in Portugal have not completed secondary education. As a result, t…

Over 300 million people suffer from depression worldwide. Can education help?

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By Simon Normandeau
Statistician, Directorate for Education and Skills


Photo credit: Maksym Kaharlytskyi/Unsplash
The World Health Organization estimates that depression affects over 300 million people worldwide, making it the leading cause of disability. Suffering from depression can make it extremely difficult for an individual to function properly at school and at work; not only does this have an impact on the lives of those affected and their surroundings, but it also has wider economic consequences for societies at large, mainly due to high medical costs and employee productivity loss. In fact, recent studies have found that the total annual costs related to depression exceed EUR 90 billion in Europe, making it one of the most costly mental disorders.

These numbers are calling for action. But can education systems do anything about it? The answer is not so clear cut, but there may be evidence to show that education has at least some part to play in combating depression. The latest…

Taking a break from the Internet may be good for learning

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By Alfonso Echazarra
Analyst, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

Photo credit: imgix on Unsplash
A Danish study on Internet use at school revealed that students themselves are perfectly aware of the risks of using the Internet for learning. Tellingly, one student explained the problems of using the Internet in the classroom: “You can have a brief conversation on Facebook during a math class and, when you look up again, the blackboard is covered with symbols and numbers”.

While this study also described promising ways in which computers and the Internet were being used in Danish high schools — for instance, students joined study groups on social media — studies like this one remind us how important it is to analyse the challenges associated with the digitalisation of education. After all, governments around the globe are making huge efforts to bring computers and high-speed Internet to every school; but too many questions remain unanswered.

Looking into the Internet use of 15-year…

Basic skills: the missing ingredient in England’s apprenticeships

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By Malgorzata Kuczera
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills


Photo Credit: George Pastushok/Unsplash

Apprenticeships can be of great value. They allow apprentices to develop a wide range of skills, they offer a fast track to employment and they can boost social mobility. But not all apprenticeships are created equal: some provide limited learning opportunities and don’t adequately prepare learners for skilled employment.

So what is the recipe for a good apprenticeship? It includes two essential ingredients: education and training, provided both on and off the job. As with any recipe, results depend on the quality of the ingredients and the way in which they are mixed together. And as any great chef will tell you, the recipe only improves with repetition and continuous refinement.

England is investing more in the development of its apprenticeship system than nearly any other country. Current reforms have created a new structure for apprenticeship programmes developed by employer …

Why pedagogy matters for innovative teaching

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By Alejandro Paniagua
Consultant, Directorate for Education and Skills

Photo credit: Celia Ortega/Unsplash
It is generally acknowledged that the quality of an educational system depends upon the quality of its teachers. Teachers are responsible for preparing young people to meet new challenges in a fast-changing world; and that is why innovation in teaching practices has become essential for engaging students.

When it comes to innovative practice, there are many documented examples of innovative practice that teachers can turn to; however, to simply direct teachers to a set of tools and techniques would not necessarily be the best way to help them innovate in the classroom. Every situation is unique, and it is not always clear how such tools can be adapted in practice.

A new OECD report, Teachers as Designers of Learning Environments: the Importance of Innovative Pedagogies, takes a different approach. Rather than viewing teachers as technicians who adopt tools to improve the learning o…

Preparing teachers for 21st century challenges

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By Andreas Schleicher
Director, Directorate for Education and Skills




Preparing today’s students to thrive in their society is no easy task. The skills and knowledge they’ll need to succeed in the future are constantly changing, while others are quickly being digitised, automated or outsourced.

This puts teachers in a difficult position. Not only do we expect them to have a deep and broad understanding of the subjects they teach, and to adequately prepare their students for 21st century challenges; we also expect them to be passionate, compassionate and thoughtful, and to ensure that students feel valued and included in a collaborative learning environment.

Our expectations of teachers are high and rising, yet our education systems are not keeping pace. Most schools look much the same today as they did a generation ago, and teachers themselves are often not developing the practices and skills required to meet the diverse needs of today’s learners.

So what can be done to support teacher…