What the expansion of higher education means for graduates in the labour market

by Markus Schwabe
Statistician, Directorate for Education and Skills

A university degree has always been considered as key to a good job and higher wages. But as the share of tertiary-educated adults across OECD countries has almost doubled over the last two decades, can the labour market absorb this growing supply of skills? At first glance, the answer isn’t encouraging: the number of unemployed tertiary-educated adults has been increasing across OECD countries for many years. However, a closer look reveals that the unemployment rate for these adults is still much lower than for those without a university degree.

The latest Education Indicators in Focus policy brief analyses long-term trends in employment outcomes of adults based on their highest level of educational attainment. The figure above shows that, in all OECD countries, adults with tertiary education still enjoy higher employment rates than those without by 10 percentage points, on average, and this advantage has changed litt…

Busting the myth about standardised testing

by Tarek Mostafa
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills

Standardised testing has received a bad rap in recent years. Parents and educators argue that too much testing can make students anxious without improving their learning. In particular, standardised tests that could determine a student’s future – entry into a certain education programme or into university, for example – might trigger anxiety and, if conducted too frequently, might lead to poorer performance, absenteeism and lower self-confidence. But are standardised tests really used all that frequently? And do they exacerbate anxiety and undermine performance?

Evidence from PISA dispels these myths.

On average across OECD countries, about one in four 15-year-old students attends a school where mandatory standardised tests are never used, and three in five attend schools where these tests are used only once or twice a year. In 11 countries, including Belgium, Costa Rica, Germany, Slovenia and Spain, more than one in two st…

Citizenship and education in a digital world

by Marc Fuster
Consultant, Directorate for Education and Skills

"Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence”, George Orwell wrote in 1943. And in an era of ‘fake news’ and post-truth, it resembles our world today.

Democracies are built upon the principles of equality and the participation of citizens in public deliberation and decision making. But participation can only work if people have at least a basic understanding of the system’s norms and institutions, can form opinions of their own and respect those of others, and are willing to engage in public life one way or another. A new Trends Shaping Education Spotlight looks at how civic education can support students in developing the knowledge and skills needed to take part in the democratic process, especially in an increasingly digitalised world.

Equipping young citizens with civic and political knowledge and skills is at the centre …

Educating our youth to care about each other and the world

by Andreas Schleicher
Director, Directorate for Education and Skills

In 2015, 193 countries committed to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, a shared vision of humanity that provides the missing piece of the globalisation puzzle. The extent to which that vision becomes a reality will in no small way depend on what is happening in today’s classrooms. Indeed, it is educators who hold the key to ensuring that the SDGs become a real social contract with citizens.

Goal 4, which commits to quality education for all, is intentionally not limited to foundation knowledge and skills, such as literacy, mathematics and science, but emphasises learning to live together sustainably. This has inspired the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the global yardstick for success in education, to include global competence in its metrics for quality, equity and effectiveness in education. PISA will assess global competence for the first time ev…

How can countries close the equity gap in education?

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

Education plays a dual role when it comes to social inequality and social mobility. On the one hand, it is the main way for societies to foster equality of opportunity and support upward social mobility for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. On the other hand, the evidence is overwhelming that education often reproduces social divides in societies, through the impact that parents’ economic, social and cultural status has on children’s learning outcomes.

The social divide is already apparent very early in the life of a child, in the time their parents spend on parenting or in the number of words a toddler learns. It progresses through early childhood education and becomes most obvious in the variation in learning outcomes, based on social background, among 15-year-old students who participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). And when literacy and numeracy…

Who really bears the cost of education?

by Marie-Hélène Doumet
Senior Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills

It can be difficult to get your head around education finance. Who actually pays for it, where does the money come from, and how is it spent are all crucial questions to ask if you want to understand how the money flows in education. In many countries, basic education is considered a right, and governments are expected to ensure universal access to it. However, educational attainment has reached unprecedented levels, and more people are participating in education than ever before, leaving governments struggling to meet the demand through public funds alone. The role of private funding has become more significant in the past decade, particularly at the pre-primary and tertiary levels of education. 
But the reality is more complex than a binary public-private model would suggest. Other financing mechanisms, involving the transfer of funds between governments, households and other private entities, are blurring th…

Are school systems ready to develop students’ social skills?

by Andreas Schleicher
Director, Directorate for Education and Skills

Successes and failures in the classroom will increasingly shape the fortunes of countries.  And yet, more of the same education will only produce more of the same strengths and weaknesses. Today’s students are growing up into a world hyperconnected by digitalisation; tomorrow, they’ll be working in a labour market that is already being hollowed-out by automation. For those with the right knowledge and skills, these changes are liberating and exciting. But for those who are insufficiently prepared, they can mean a future of vulnerable and insecure work, and a life lived on the margins.

In today’s schools, students typically learn individually, and at the end of the school year, we certify their individual achievements. But the more interdependent the world becomes, the more it needs great collaborators and orchestrators. Innovation is now rarely the product of individuals working in isolation; instead, it is an outcome…