Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A shared aspiration

By Alfonso Echazarra
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills 

If there’s one word that encapsulates the desires and aspirations of education stakeholders around the world, it is improvement. When the first PISA results revealed the disappointing performance of German students, the country became determined to improve, and shake up, its education system. More recently, after declining results in reading, mathematics and science, Wales introduced large-scale school reform measures with the aim of becoming one of the top 20 performers in PISA reading performance by 2015. While there is no one sure path to improvement in education, this month’s PISA in Focus relays a positive message: any country can improve its performance and equity in education – and relatively quickly.

This means that improvements in PISA performance are not bound by geography, national wealth, cultural heritage or where the country started off on its way towards excellence in PISA. For example, Singapore, a small, relatively wealthy Asian country (which ranked second in mathematics performance in PISA 2012) has improved its mean score by 4 points per year – as has Brazil, a large, middle-income Latin American country, where two out of three students still do not attain the baseline proficiency Level 2 in mathematics. Countries as diverse as Chile, Germany, Israel, Malaysia, Qatar and Romania have also seen significant improvements in mathematics performance.

PISA results over the years also show that change can happen relatively quickly, and this is good news for governments setting ambitious goals. Look at Poland: its performance in reading, mathematics and science has improved remarkably since the first PISA results – more than 25 score points in all 3 subjects – to the extent that Poland is now among the 10 top-performing OECD countries. Brazil, Bulgaria, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Serbia, Tunisia and Turkey have also made great leaps forward.

And there’s still more good news: improvement in performance rarely comes at the expense of equity in education. When countries show improvements in their performance, it is usually because they have managed to reduce the proportion of low-achieving students. For instance, improvements in mathematics performance in Mexico, Tunisia and Turkey, all of which scored well below average in their first PISA tests, are observed mainly among low-achieving students. This usually means greater equity of education opportunities in these countries. In fact, in the majority of the countries and economies whose mathematics performance has improved over the years, the relationship between students’ socio-economic background and mathematics performance has grown weaker, not stronger.

PISA is a useful tool not only for measuring how students perform now, but how much countries and economies have progressed over time in encouraging – and realising – excellence and equity in education. What eventually makes the difference for education systems is their aspiration to improve, not a desire to be top of the class.

Education Policy Outlook 2015
PISA 2012 Findings
PISA in Focus No. 47: How has student performance evolved over time?
Full set of PISA in Focus 
Excellence through Equity, Giving Every Student the Chance to Succeed (Volume II)
Photo credit: Business occupation - finger people moving step up /@Shutterstock

Monday, January 19, 2015

How many young people leave school without any qualification?

by Dirk Van Damme
Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress division, Directorate for Education and Skills

More education yields better job prospects and higher average levels of income, and is also associated with better (self-reported) health, social capital and political engagement. Year after year Education at a Glance provides the evidence that links educational attainment to these various economic and social outcomes. The economic crisis has underlined the relevance of such findings. The social cost of the crisis, in terms of unemployment and poverty, has been particularly high for those who lacked the risk insurance that education seems to guarantee for the highly educated.

The latest unemployment data from the OECD (November 2014) show that unemployment rates remain virtually unchanged at very high levels and that there is little prospect for real improvement. The recently published Education at a Glance Interim Report , which includes 2013 data, shows that the relative risk of unemployment among low-educated adults continues to be very high. On average across OECD countries, 13.7% of those without an upper secondary qualification were unemployed, compared to 5.3% for tertiary-educated individuals and 8% among those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education.

Countries have every good reason to lift as many young people as possible out of the trap of having to enter the labour market and adulthood without a good qualification. Indeed, many countries have identified the problem of early, unqualified school leavers as a major educational challenge. One just has to glance at the chart above to understand how big the problem is. On average across OECD countries with available data, 16.8% of 25-34 year-olds have to start life without a minimum level qualification. At least one in six young people in 13 OECD countries – including Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway – lacks qualifications. This is a major risk for these labour markets and societies.

Many countries have expanded their tertiary education systems and have seen the share of tertiary-educated individuals in the 25-34 year-old cohort grow year after year – but the share of low-educated youth does not diminish at an equivalent rate. Between 2005 and 2013, the average annual growth rate in the share of tertiary-educated youth was almost twice as high as the rate of decline in the share of young people who did not have an upper secondary qualification: .94 percentage points compared to .50 percentage points. This also means that the relative share of mid-educated 25-34 year-olds has decreased as well, by .46 percentage points per year, on average.

Some countries have both a large share of highly educated youth and a large share of low-educated youth. In Spain, for example, 41.1% of 25-34 year-olds are tertiary educated and 34.9% of individuals that age do not have an upper secondary qualification. Austria, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia have the opposite profile, with small proportions of low-educated youth, a large share of young people with an upper secondary qualification, and a comparatively small proportion of tertiary-educated youth.

Sure, there is progress: the group of young people without any qualification grows smaller year after year; but progress is slow and unevenly distributed among countries. In Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal, Turkey and the United Kingdom, the share of young people without any qualification decreased by an average of more than 1.2 percentage points between 2005 and 2013. But in Denmark, Estonia, Norway and Switzerland, the share of young people in the workforce who had no qualification increased during the same period.

The message is clear: if countries want to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth and social progress, they should not only expand their tertiary education systems, they should also work to reduce the share of low-educated youth. Leaving a large share of young adults behind without any educational protection against the risks of unemployment, insecure jobs and social exclusion might, in the end, eat into most of the growth dividend acquired through higher educational attainment. Progress has to be achieved across the educational spectrum.

OECD Press release: Success of education reforms threatened by lack of oversight, says OECD
Education at a Glance
Education at a Glance Interim Report: Update of Employment and Educational Attainment Indicators
Explore Education at a Glance data on GPS
Chart Source: OECD (2015), Education at a Glance Interim Report: Update of Employment and Educational Attainment Indicators, Table 1.4, available for consultation on line only

Shared challenges in reforming education systems: are we getting it right?

by Beatriz Pont,
Senior Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills

Let’s be honest, implementing ambitious reforms in education is not simple. Change takes time, often longer than a politician’s 4 year term, and they may face conflicting priorities or even lack evidence on what would work best. More than 12% of government expenditure is invested in education to improve results and enable citizens to benefit from good education systems. Still, 21.5% of 15 year olds don’t reach the minimum level of skills required to function in today’s societies.  The new OECD book Education Policy Outlook 2015: Making Reforms Happen looks into more than 450 education reforms adopted across OECD countries during the past 7 years.

Written to help policy makers with policy options and country examples, it shows trends and lessons that can contribute to make a difference in their reform efforts. Countries share common challenges and are defining policies accordingly: targeting inequality and ensuring completion and effective transitions into tertiary or the labour market, strengthening the delivery of education in schools, using data for accountability and improvement, and steering and implementing policy effectively.

Reviewing reforms implemented shows that many countries are using education as a way out of the crisis: numerous reforms focus on preparing students for the future, especially in vocational education and training and tertiary education. Reforms are also prioritising the quality of teachers and teaching, with almost 1 in 4 reforms in this area. Investing in supporting disadvantaged students and schools is at the heart of many reforms. In critical times like today, we need to invest to make sure that we deliver the best possible education for our children. They are our future.

Good reforms are not only about design. They are about making sure that policies are well implemented and that they have an impact where needed the most. Regrettably, from our study, only 1 in 10 reforms are reported as having evaluations. And we know that there are a number of key issues for success in making reforms happen: adapt the type of reform to respond to the concrete challenges, focus on the classroom and the learning and not on processes, focus on developing capacity of teachers and leaders, engage stakeholders from early on, and make reforms sustainable for the longer term.

Reforms are not just about strategies, white papers and regulations; they must be transformed into better outcomes for our youth and our future. 

Review and compare countries on the Data Viz 


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Improving school climate and opportunities to learn

by Gabriela Miranda Moriconi
Researcher, Department for Educational Research at Fundação Carlos Chagas, Brazil

January marks the preparation for the academic year in the Southern Hemisphere, where the school year spans from February/March to November/December. More than simply allocating time for classes and other extra-curricular activities, it is an opportunity to reflect on  how to make the best use of classroom time, in order to maximise  learning opportunities for all students. The new Teaching in Focus brief “Improving school climate and opportunities to learn” provides some useful insights into how school climate issues affect actual learning time and discusses some initiatives that could be promoted to make the most of the time that students spend in the classroom.

Teachers can certainly face challenges in the classroom. In TALIS participating countries and economies, almost one in three teachers report having more than 10% of students with behavioural problems in their classes. Whilst teachers may have different perceptions/ideas/classifications of what behavioural problems are, this shows that it is nonetheless an important source of concern for many teachers. And, as expected, students’ behavioural problems do affect instructional time: in all the countries and economies participating in TALIS 2013, the more challenging the classroom, the more class time teachers report spending keeping order and therefore not actually teaching – almost twice as much time for teachers with more than 10% misbehaving student, compared to classrooms with less than 10% of students with behaviour problems.

In addition, students miss out on opportunities to learn when they are regularly absent from classes. Across all TALIS countries and economies, 39% of teachers work in schools where absenteeism of students occurs every week. Not only does missing classes consume time that should be used for learning, but it is also related to other negative factors in schools, such as student intimidation or verbal abuse among students. Thus, different factors seem to go together in schools and result in a negative environment, which undermines teaching and learning.

Nonetheless, building a positive school culture could be one way to reduce behavioural problems and absenteeism, and therefore improve the learning conditions of students. One way to create a more positive environment is to involve students, parents and teachers in school decisions. Indeed, across TALIS countries and economies, teachers who work in schools with a higher level of participation among stakeholders are less likely to report high proportions of students with behavioural problems in their classrooms.

These results indicate that educational systems and particular schools should make an effort to promote positive relationships among students, as well as between students, parents and teachers. TALIS also suggests that there are many benefits to involving students, parents and teachers in school decisions, for instance, attempts to increase student engagement should in turn improve the use of school time for learning.

The author(s) received funding from the OECD Thomas J. Alexander fellowship program for carrying out this work.

The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS)
New insights from TALIS 2013: Teaching and learning in primary and upper secondary education
The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey
A Teacher’s Guide to TALIS 2013
Teaching in Focus No. 9 : Improving school climate and students’ opportunities to learn, by Gabriela Miranda Moriconi and Katarzyna Kubacka
Teaching In Focus No. 9: Améliorer le climat scolaire et les possibilités d’apprentissage pour les élèves (À paraître)
International Summit on the Teaching Profession, Banff, Alberta, on March 29–30, 2015
Photo credit: Illustrated silhouettes of two classroom scenes / @Shutterstock

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Education and the modern family

by Tracey Burns and Roxanne Kovacs
Directorate for Education and Skills. 
Sciences Po, Paris

In an article published in 1993, David Popenoe argued that the middle of the 20th century was the heyday of the traditional nuclear family. This family consisted of “a heterosexual, monogamous, life-long marriage in which there is a sharp division of labour, with the female as full-time housewife and the male as primary provider and ultimate authority”. Popenoe argued that the decline of the traditional family was detrimental not just for families, but for society as a whole.

He was correct on at least one level: families have changed. The majority of families of the 21st century are much more diverse: Marriage rates have been declining while divorce rates are rising. Couples are choosing to have their children later in life, and more people are having children without getting married at all. In fact, the average age of first marriage (30 years) has now risen above the average age of first childbirth (28 years). Modern families come in many shapes and sizes, including reconstituted families, single parents, multi-racial and same-sex families.

In addition, the role of women has changed. In 2013, 63% of women participated in the labour force on average across the OECD. Women no longer need to make a strict choice between having a family and having a career in most countries across the OECD. In fact, higher fertility rates are positively related to greater female labour force participation on average. The “decline” of the traditional family has thus benefitted our economies, as well as reported well-being.

Do our education systems offer the necessary support for children growing up in modern families? To what extent should schools be responsible for what have traditionally been thought of as “family matters”? And does family composition have any effect on education performance? A recently released Trends Shaping Education Spotlight looks at what education providers can do to support modern families and how new family structures have changed demands for learning and care.

First, it is clear that in many countries children from non-traditional families might need support at school. In PISA 2012, students from single-parent families performed, on average, 4.5 points below students from other types of families, even after controlling for socio-economic differences. Raising awareness of achievement gaps, providing hands-on support, establishing a good relationship with the student and his/her parent(s) or helping with homework and academic difficulties are just a few ways in which educators can help make a difference.

Another important way in which education can assist modern families is by providing high quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). Women are still the main providers of childhood care in all OECD countries and do, on average, 60% of all caring work in the household. Not only can the provision of subsidised ECEC facilitate women’s participation in the labour force, it can also have a positive effect on their children’s educational performance. In fact, 15-year olds who attended one year of pre-primary school performed, on average, 30 points better in PISA, even after taking socio-economic differences into account.

In addition to being influenced by education, modern families have also changed education themselves. For example, parents have become much more active and powerful, making their voices heard by participating in school boards, parent-teacher associations and extra-curricular activities. If they are unhappy with their children’s school, in many countries they can transfer them to another institution. In doing so, they are holding schools accountable and becoming more involved in the governance and delivery of education. This is important for a number of reasons: improving local accountability and responsiveness to the community, engaging new actors in the system that might have hitherto been silent or excluded, and working to increase ownership and trust in the system.

However, not all parents are actively involved in their children’s schools. Parents with lower income tend to be less active, and there are increasing reports of parents from all socio-economic strata refusing to accept criticisms of their children, or expecting teachers to handle all education matters without their support. Teachers increasingly report being expected to play the role of the parent as well as the educator, adding extra time and tasks to their already busy workday.

Successful modern schools must make an effort be open and responsive to the needs of modern families. At the same time, modern families must also accept their responsibility in ensuring the well-being of their children – and that includes taking part in their education. Without this partnership and trust, our schools and communities are less successful – and it is the children who pay the price.

Trends Shaping Education 2013
OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 
PISA 2009 Results: Overcoming Social Background: Equity in Learning Opportunities and Outcomes. 
PISA 2012 Findings
OECD, Doing Better for Families 
OECD, A Quality Toolbox for Early Childhood Education and Care 
Photo credit: Father reading child a story / @Shutterstock

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The sustainability of the UK’s higher education system

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 university degree remain over 80% higher than those of workers with just five good GCSE’s or an equivalent vocational qualification. Sure, not every university graduate will end up with a great salary, but on average they take an additional
£160 000 home over their working life, and that's even after discounting tuition, forgone earnings, and the higher tax bill that comes with a better salary. Some say these trends are all futures of the past, and that the job prospects of future graduates may look much worse, particularly if bringing in more and more people eventually means including less qualified applicants. But people have been saying these things ever since I began tracking those numbers over a decade ago and the bottom line is that, so far, the rise in knowledge workers has not led to a decline in their pay, as we have seen for people at the lower end of the skills spectrum.
That brings up the question of who should pay for this, because there simply is no free university education.
The Nordic countries pay for universities through the public purse and even subsidise the living costs of university students. It makes sense for them because participation is almost universal and they have a steeply progressive tax system so that they can recuperate the funds from graduates who typically end up as the better earners.
European countries like France, Germany or Spain, too, say higher education is important, but their governments are neither willing to put in the required funds nor allowing universities to charge tuition. They end up compromising quality and restricting access, with the effect that all workers end up paying for the university education of the rich parents’ children.
The third alternative is to allow universities to charge tuition, and interestingly, OECD data show absolutely no cross-country relationship between the level of tuition countries charge and the participation of disadvantaged youth in tertiary education. In fact, social mobility is worse in Germany which pays for all university education through the public purse than it is in the UK.
But getting tuition right is not simple either. If countries put the burden for tuition entirely on the shoulders of families, they risk not attracting the brightest but the wealthiest children to attend, which means not making the most out of the country’s talent.
If countries rely mainly on commercial loans which students have to repay once they finish their studies, they still leave students and families with the risk, because the promise of greater lifetime earnings of graduates is a statistical one, and there is actually very wide dispersion in earnings. The UK, and some other countries too, have tried to square that circle with a combination of income-contingent loans and means-tested grants. That basically means risk-free access to financing for prospective students with governments leveraging, but not paying, for the costs.
The loans reduce the liquidity constraints faced by individuals at the time of study, while the income-contingent nature of the loans system addresses the risk and uncertainty faced by individuals (insurance against inability to repay) and improves the progressiveness of the overall system (lower public subsidy for graduates with higher private returns). In the UK, the repayments of graduates correspond to a proportion of their earnings and low earners make low or no repayments, and graduates with low lifetime earnings end up not repaying their loans in full.
But even the best loan system is often not sufficient. There is ample evidence that youth from low income families or from families with poorly educated parents, but also youth who just don't have good information on the benefits of tertiary education, underestimate the net benefits of tertiary education. That’s why it has paid off for the UK to complement the loan scheme with means-tested grants or tuition waivers for vulnerable groups.
Sure, those loan and grant systems cost money, and have shifted risks to government which will end up paying for any bad debt. Indeed, it is very likely that repayment rates will end up a lot lower than what the government anticipated. But these costs are just a tiny fraction of the added fiscal income due to better educated individuals paying higher taxes. Keep in mind that the added tax income of those graduates who end up in employment, on average over £80 000 in the UK, is many times larger than any conceivable bad debt.
There is lots the UK can do to further improve its approach to financing universities. For a start, it can do better with aligning course offerings with societal demand. I also worry that the loan repayment parameters mean many middle income workers – such as teachers, health professionals, public sector workers - will end up paying more for their education than better earners such as lawyers and bankers. But among all available approaches, the UK offers still the most scalable and sustainable approach to university finance.

This article originally appeared on the Research Professional website, International Comparison of Tuition Fee regimes.
Education at a Glance 2014 country note: United Kingdom
Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators (See Indicator B)
Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives: A Strategic Approach to Skills Policies

Photo credit: Students pulling and pushing heavy stone / @Shutterstock

Monday, December 22, 2014

Skills and wage inequality across labour markets

by Dirk Van Damme
Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress division, Directorate for Education and Skills

Mean monthly earnings in USD (using Purchasing Power Parities) of individuals, by literacy proficiency level, gender, age and educational attainment (2012)

In a completely open labour market, earnings from employment would compensate individuals for their contribution to the organisation’s economic success. The price put on one’s labour also depends on the abundance or scarcity of the individual’s specific set of skills in the market. But economic price-setting mechanisms do not operate in a vacuum, and are heavily influenced by political and institutional factors that, in themselves, are often the outcome of long histories of social conflict and compromise.

Governments tend to regulate minimum wages and other framework conditions, while sectoral collective labour agreements set rules for salary increases by seniority or educational qualifications. Such arrangements serve to set minimum wages and living standards for vulnerable workers. In fact, some of the rationales underlying wage differentials across the labour market are increasingly scrutinised for their harmful social impact. For example, several countries are debating the social and economic impact of regulations favouring older workers simply because of their age.

It has now been well established that wage inequality has increased. Increasing social inequality also seems to have an adverse impact on growth. Even if inequality and well-being should be seen as multi-dimensional, incorporating many more factors than just wages, the income generated from employment lies at the core of social inequality. The latest Education Indicators in Focus, presenting data from the Survey of Adult Skills (a product of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, or PIAAC), presents a snapshot of how different factors, such as gender, age, educational attainment and, especially, skills, affected the distribution of wages in 2012. The snapshot doesn’t provide trend data, but shows where we are now.

As the chart above illustrates, on average across the 24 countries and regions that participated in the survey, the wage differences between various categories are significant. Gender, age and educational attainment all have an impact on wages. Labour markets and wage-setting systems tend to closely reflect educational qualifications, often through institutional frameworks. Wages also reward professional experience and seniority of older workers. And the gender bias in wages partly echoes different labour market participation patterns between males and females.

But the most interesting finding of the chart is the very significant impact that skills have on earnings within each category of the gender, age and education variables. Skills differentiate wages to an almost similar degree within both sexes. With age we see a different pattern: as people grow older, their wages depend more and more on their skills level. But the wage differentiation only happens at the top of the skills distribution: higher skilled older workers earn higher wages than younger colleagues, while lower skilled workers don’t see their wages increase with age.

The interaction between educational qualifications and skills in setting wages again, is of a different nature. Labour market arrangements are still heavily based on educational qualifications. But educational qualifications do not always accurately describe the qualification-holder’s level of skills. Wages vary widely, even within each qualification level, by the actual skills people have; this is especially evident among tertiary-educated workers. If an individual is not equipped with a set of skills commensurate with his or her qualification, then the qualification in itself does not seem to secure a high wage. Better-skilled individuals with a mid-level qualification earn more than low-skilled tertiary graduates. At the same time, tertiary educated workers with low skills still get a higher wage than mid-skilled workers with lower qualifications.

Several countries are in the process of reforming their labour market arrangements. In general, such reforms aim to open up labour markets with more flexible arrangements, while at the same time protecting vulnerable workers and containing the overall level of wage inequality. In this context, the question whether skills and experience should have a higher impact on wages than seniority, gender or educational qualifications is becoming a critically important policy issue.

Education Indicators in Focus, issue No. 27 by Eric Charbonnier and Simon Normandeau
Education Indicators in Focus, issue No. 27, French version
OECD Skills Outlook 2013
On this topic, visit:
Education Indicators in Focus: www.oecd.org/education/indicators 
On the OECD’s education indicators, visit:
Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators: www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm
Chart source: © OECD

Friday, December 19, 2014

The efficiency of Italian schools in an international perspective

by Tommaso Agasisti,
Politecnico di Milano School of Management, and TJ Alexander Fellow at OECD

Performance in PISA and (Data Envelope Analysis) efficiency scores

Budget cuts in public services are today common across countries. For schools, as everywhere else, we constantly hear calls for ways to do more with less. Efficiency, it seems, has crept up to the top of the policy agenda. The question is whether the quality of learning is suffering due budget cuts, and if the quality of learning is compromised by fewer resources.

In most countries, educational results have not progressed in line with the increases in resources used by schools. Large scale international assessments, such as PISA, opens the door to new research on efficiency. Using PISA 2012 data, we estimated efficiency for almost 9 000 schools operating in 30 countries. In this context, efficiency is defined in a technical sense: inputs are the number of teachers per student, the number of computers per teacher (measures that provide us with an idea of the amount of human and material resources available to the school) and students’ average socio-economic background (a measure of the environment the school operates and the family background of the students that attend the school), while outputs are measured by the average test scores in mathematics and reading of the students in the school. Using international data, the efficiency at school level is not determined only by national efficiency standards in a particular country, but by schools in all countries.

The results highlight that among the 30 countries being examined, the average efficiency of school stands at 0.73. This means that PISA test scores could be raised by 27% if resources were used at the optimal level of efficiency (those attained by top performing schools for each combination of resources). For Italian schools, the average efficiency score is 0.71, which implies that on average, the PISA scores could be raised by 29%. By way of comparison, the country in which efficiency scores are the highest is Singapore (0.84), followed by two other Asian countries (Korea and Japan), then Poland and Estonia (see Figure above).

The empirical analysis compares Italian schools with a sample of schools in other countries Many Italian schools are comparable with the best schools in the world, while others struggle with underwhelming results (both with regards to achievement and efficiency). One of the most striking findings of this research is the amount of variation in efficiency across schools within each country. In this sense, the “typical, average” Italian school simply does not exist.

The PISA data allows less efficient schools to observe the characteristics of more efficient ones, by studying their organisation and activities, regardless of the country where they operate. Drawing inspiration from these data, each school can adopt the mix of resources, practices and processes that they consider most suitable for improving their operations (in terms of achievement scores and efficiency). In addition, by collecting information at different points in time, schools can monitor improvements and its determinants, eventually adjusting activities and strategies if satisfactory results are not achieved.

An evaluation system of this kind is no substitute for the experience of teachers and principals, rather it can stimulate them, and other stakeholders, into considering the measurable characteristics of their work without renouncing to the more intangible aspects such as cultural and educational values.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What works best for learning in schools

by Cassandra Davis,
Communications Manager, Directorate for Education and Skills

Professor John Hattie is held in high esteem as an education researcher and was called “possibly the world’s most influential education academic” by the Times Educational Supplement in 2012. He rose to international prominence with the publication of his two books Visible Learning (2008) and Visible Learning for Teachers (2011). Since March 2011, Professor Hattie has been Director of the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Professor Hattie is also the Chair of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). Communications Manager Cassandra Davis asked him about his research of what works best for learning in schools.

Cassandra Davis: Building a force of effective school leaders demands that teachers be open to assessments and professional development. How do you convince teachers to avail themselves of these opportunities – particularly those who may resist change?

John Hattie: Throughout Australia, we have teachers who are performing at extraordinarily high levels, which essentially means they are creating maximum learning impact with their students.

All too often, such high-impact teaching is almost invisible to the colleagues of those teachers and to the students’ parents. The doors literally close on those classrooms and the teachers just get on with their teaching at a high level, but largely in isolation. 

Despite this tendency, we do know what highly effective teaching practice looks like across a range of school settings. That high impact practice is described in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. They set out clearly what the profession and the community should expect teachers to know and be able to do at different stages of their careers.

When teachers see that any evaluation of their work and impact is underpinned by a set of transparent standards that make sense to them, and where the intent (and result) of any such evaluation is improvement and professional development, I think that school leaders will find teachers are open, receptive and active in their own growth – certainly, that is my experience.

CD: On the one hand, your organisation strives to create competent, responsive school leaders – presumably also from the ranks of teachers – but you also stress the importance of keeping the best teachers in the classroom, free of school-management responsibilities. In your experience, what is the best way to encourage the most innovative and effective teachers to remain in the classroom? Is it largely – or even only – a matter of raising their pay?

JH: In the fairly recent past, it was all too common for excellent classroom teachers to be “promoted” into positions of middle administrative authority and divorced from what they were truly great at doing.

While it’s totally legitimate and desirable for some teachers to aspire to school leadership, we should not effectively penalise those high-performing teachers who wish to go on being superlative at what they do in the classroom.

The way to make the classroom into a real and viable choice for talented and ambitious people is to publicly accord high levels of esteem to the expert classroom teacher. In the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, there are four teaching career stages: Graduate, Proficient, Highly Accomplished and Lead. The first two are compulsory to achieve and maintain registration and ongoing professional status. The second two are voluntary, increasingly demanding and highly aspirational.

To be certified as a Highly Accomplished or Lead Teacher on the basis of explicit criteria and demonstrable achievement tells the profession and the wider community something quite profound about the nature of an individual’s talents.

It’s important to have teachers who are paid in accordance with their considerable skills and responsibilities. This is much more important and realisable than payment based on test scores.  The profession needs to be financially attractive enough to attract and retain talented people, so when it comes to salaries, relativities with other comparable professions need to be taken into account. The important issue is rewarding skills and expertise.

CD: Our latest TALIS report shows that 66% of upper secondary teachers in Australia work in schools whose principals reported that more than 10% of the students come from disadvantaged homes. How do you prepare teachers to meet this particular challenge?

JH: As educators, we cannot wave a magic wand over the problem of socio-economic disadvantage. Students do not leave hunger or poverty at the school gate. But what we can do is to help ensure that the principal who leads the school and the teacher who conducts the class are highly skilled and maximise their impact on these students.

AITSL’s work is driven by the knowledge that the greatest in-school influence on student achievement is the quality of teaching.

That might sound like the simplest truism, but in the absence of first-hand experience or knowledge about classroom practices, some parents tend to make choices for their child’s education based on obvious but relatively unimportant proxies, such as manicured grounds, whiz-bang facilities or social cachet.

The support of school leaders and the system for these skilled teachers is a must. A key is how to find time (and thus resources) for teachers to work together in planning in light of their impact, work together to evaluate their impact and collaborate in ensuring all students get the minimum year’s growth for a year’s input.

CD: You mention that AITSL is becoming increasingly engaged with your south and east Asian neighbours. To what extent do you believe that the methods and underlying policies you use to build more effective teachers and school leaders can be exported to cultures and education systems that are fundamentally different from Australia’s?

JH: I am put in mind of the famous opening lines of Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” That is to say, there are certain features that characterise successful schools, even while the challenges they struggle to overcome may be quite different.

Successful schools invariably have good leaders. They also have a preponderance or a critical mass of good teachers who understand their impact on student learning and work to become better practitioners. And those schools are led by school leaders who have the skills to raise discussions about what impact means in this school, how to evaluate the magnitude of impact and ensure that all students share this high impact.

Likewise, good schools have a preponderance of genuinely engaged students, supported by interested parents who value education. I suspect all this is true for “happy families” of schools from Australia to our high-achieving Asian neighbours and beyond.

While the “unhappy family” problems faced by other countries’ schools may well be radically different from those faced by Australian schools, there is nevertheless an essential and shared foundation required in the shape of superlatively skilled and high-impact teachers and school leaders.

New Insights from TALIS 2013
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership
Education Policy Outlook Country Note: Australia
Photo credit: @Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Trouble with homework

by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Directorate for Education and Skills

It’s sometimes hard to tell who has more trouble with homework: students or their parents. PISA results show that homework, itself, may inadvertently perpetuate a problem that goes far beyond spoiling a student’s evening or a parent’s self-esteem. As this month’s PISA in Focus explains, homework may widen the performance gap between students from different socio-economic backgrounds.

Students everywhere are assigned homework by their teachers, and across OECD countries in 2012, 15-year-old students reported that they spend almost five hours per week doing homework. (If you think that’s a lot, it’s actually one hour less per week than the average reported in 2003 – and 9 hours less per week than students in Shanghai-China reported in 2012.)

The problem lies not so much in the amount of time spent doing homework, but in differences in the amount of time spent doing homework that are related to students’ socio-economic status. In every country and economy that participated in PISA 2012, advantaged students spend more time doing homework than disadvantaged students. In OECD countries, for example, advantaged students spend 5.7 hours per week doing homework, on average, while disadvantaged students spend an average of 4.1 hours per week. PISA also finds that students who attend schools whose student body is predominantly composed of advantaged students, and students who attend schools located in urban areas, reported spending more time doing homework than students who attend schools with a more disadvantaged student body and schools located in rural areas.

What accounts for these differences? PISA cannot establish cause-and-effect links, but results from previous PISA studies suggest that advantaged students are more likely than their disadvantaged peers to have a quiet place to study at home and parents who convey positive messages about schooling. The connection between the socio-economic profile of a school’s student population and the amount of time students spend on homework might reflect differences in teachers’ expectations for their students and teachers’ perceptions of their students’ capacity to study independently.

All of this has an impact on student performance. Students who spend more time doing homework tend to score higher in the PISA mathematics test. And if you compare students from similar socio-economic backgrounds who attend similarly resourced schools, those who attend schools where students, in general, spend more time doing homework perform better in mathematics than those who attend schools whose students devote less time to homework. In fact, PISA results show that the net payoff in mathematics performance from attending a school where more homework is assigned, in general, is particularly large – 17 score points (the equivalent of nearly 6 months of schooling) or more per extra hour of homework – in Hong Kong-China, Japan, Macao-China and Singapore.

One good way to make sure that homework does not perpetuate differences in performance that are related to students’ socio-economic status is for schools and teachers to encourage struggling and disadvantaged students to complete their homework. This could involve providing facilities at school so that disadvantaged students have a quiet, comfortable place to work, and/or offering to help parents motivate their children to finish their homework before going out with friends or surfing the web. The homework still has to get done; but maybe students and their parents will find it a little less troublesome.

PISA 2012 Findings
Does homework perpetuate inequities in education?
PISA in Focus No.46 (French version)
Photo credit: Student connection / @Shutterstock

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Shedding light on teaching and learning across education levels

by Katarzyna Kubacka
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills 

Looking at teachers at all levels of education, we learn that the majority of teachers are women. In all countries, the percentage of male teachers is particularly low in primary schools where teaching is still seen as a women’s job.  As a result young children are missing out on role models of both sexes.

New insights from TALIS 2013: Teaching and learning in primary and upper secondary education reveals that women constitute more than 65% of the work force on average, in all six countries that surveyed primary teachers, ranging from 67% in Mexico to 86% in Poland. In contrast, at least 30% of upper secondary teachers across all ten surveyed countries are male and the percentage of female teachers ranges from 48% in Denmark to 68% in Poland. Interestingly, this gender imbalance at the level of teachers does not translate into the same distribution of leadership positions for men and women. School principals in many countries tend to be male on average – a fact that’s surprising considering that most principals are former teachers, and most teachers are female.

The report marks the first time TALIS has expended its scope beyond lower secondary schools to gather information on teaching and learning at both primary and upper secondary levels of education, in a total of 11 countries  around the world.  The report also focuses on schools’ human resources and general resource shortages across all three levels of education.

It reveals that there are some important differences in terms of how school resources are distributed across the education levels and also across schools with different socio-economic composition. In particular, TALIS provides information on perceived shortages in terms of resources such as qualified teachers, computers for instruction, support personnel: shortages which principals deem hinder the provision of quality education in their schools. Unfortunately these perceived shortages tend to be even more pronounced in schools with larger proportions of students from disadvantaged homes – and this trend is seen across the education levels.

One implication of this new set of TALIS information is that education systems need to put more effort into assuring an equitable distribution of resources within and across education levels. Effective teaching and learning requires that all schools, from primary up to upper secondary, have the tools they require to best equip students with the skills they will require to successfully weather the storm of their rapidly changing environments.

Teaching in Focus No. 8 : What TALIS reveals about teachers across education levels, by Katarzyna Kubacka
Teaching In Focus No. 8Que nous apprend TALIS sur les enseignants des différents niveaux d’enseignement ?
International Summit on the Teaching Profession, Banff, Alberta, on March 29–30, 2015
Photo credit: Human resources officer (HR) choose woman employee standing out of the crowd / Shutterstock

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Man with a mission

by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Directorate for Education and Skills

David Puttnam had a storied 30-year career as an independent film producer (The Mission, The Killing Fields, Local Hero, Chariots of Fire, Midnight Express, to cite just a few of his award-winning films) before he retired from film production to focus on public policy related to education, the environment, and the creative and communications industries. Lord Puttnam, who is now the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma, the Republic of Ireland’s Digital Champion, and chair of Ireland-based Atticus Education, which delivers interactive seminars on film and other subjects to educational institutions around the world, quit school at 16. (“I was bored to tears,” he says. “It was night school that saved me.”) Marilyn Achiron, editor at the Directorate of Education and Skills, met with Lord Puttnam in early November when he was in Paris to give a keynote address to the CERI Conference on Innovation, Governance and Reform in Education.

Marilyn Achiron: In your keynote speech, you talk about creativity in using technologies in education. What do you mean by that? 

David Puttnam: Creativity, for me, is finding metaphors, finding ways of explaining things in an interesting manner. Innovation in teaching is more than just technique. It’s a way of getting teachers to understand that teaching is a wildly interesting, imaginative job; and the results you can get – as we used to call it, the “lightbulb moment” – when you find the right switch for that lightbulb, are absolutely remarkable. But unfortunately, because of curricula pressures, personal pressures, because of class size, etc., teachers find it increasingly difficult to individualise kids in that sense: one kid’s lightbulb is not going to be the same as that of another kid.

MA: In your travels, do you find that teachers are willing to learn new pedagogies, learn to use new technologies in the classroom, or is there resistance? 

DP: I chair the Times Educational Supplement advisory board. In 2008, we realised that we had a perfectly efficient social media site – TES Connect. And we wondered what would happen if we really opened it up to teachers, to try to encourage teachers to talk to each other instead of through us. Teachers place learning materials, lesson plans, ideas, questions on the site. We've now reached a point at which over a million teachers a day, from all over the world, are now accessing this one site. So the idea that teachers aren’t interested in talking to other teachers, or in learning from other teachers, or in passing on information to other teachers has been blown right out of the water. The day when you went to your classroom, closed the door, and jealously guarded your own pedagogy – those days are over, gone.

Having seen the extraordinary success of  social media sites – TES Connect, and others – one criticism I would make is of the overall quality of the resources that are available. Quantitatively, we’ve hit a gold mine; qualitatively, I think it’s operating at about 20% of what's possible. You need to make sure that the resources posted stimulate really innovative and interesting work. One thing we’re looking into is the concept of copyright-free classrooms, which would mean that teachers wouldn’t have to worry about what they can and can’t use – movie clips, clips from television, whatever it might be – so that we’d in effect be challenging teachers to take material and re-use it, rather than looking over their shoulders wondering if they can. It would create an environment of “permissibility” for teachers to find out what’s possible.

MA: As a film producer, you had direct control over the process and your product, you had relatively quick reaction time from the people you worked with. Are you frustrated now in your policy work on education and climate change?

DP: Oh deeply. I no longer believe, in my heart of hearts, that the political will exists to turn things around – until we are faced with an evidential, existential crisis.

MA: What will that be?

It’s going to have to be pretty catastrophic to create lasting behaviour change; and it’s going to have to be something with a clear “read across” to other nations. It can’t just be inundation of coastal Bangladesh, or the vanishing of the Maldives. It can’t just be that. It’s got to be a situation in which every farmer in the [US] Midwest says: “It’s game over”. It has to shatter complacency at the UN; it has to shatter complacency within the OECD.

MA: How do we convince aging populations, particularly in the West, that improving education and maintaining schools are important? 

Anyone who is sufficiently a fantasist to think that good education systems are not a prerequisite to the health care they want, and the pensions they want, and the social security they want as they get older is bonkers, just plain bonkers!

As we discussed during the conference, the difference between the [highly innovative] medical profession and the teaching profession is quite simple. If you’re a surgeon and I come to you with a serious health issue, and you say to me, “You really do have a problem; however, I was reading the other day about a procedure which is really interesting. It’s been used several times and it could – could – save you”, I’m going to say, “Where do I sign?”

What you have is a process that constantly incentivises innovation, because through a series of relatively short-term wins you get long-term gains. The default mechanism in the education world is the opposite, which is: “How do we be sure it will work?” Because the crisis isn’t acute – or isn’t perceived to be acute. That, I think, is why the medical world has developed at an extraordinary pace – and continues to – and why education languishes.

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI)
Centre for Educational Research and Innovation: Conference on Innovation, Governance and Reform in Education
David Puttnam's PowerPoint Presentation at the CERI Conference on Innovation, Governance and Reform in Education
Photo credit: © OECD/Marco Illuminati

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Does lifelong learning perpetuate inequalities in educational opportunities?

by Dirk Van Damme
Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress division, Directorate for Education and Skills

Participation rates of 25-64-year-olds in formal and/or non-formal education
More than 40 years ago, the former French Prime Minister Edgar Faure and his team published one of the most influential educational works of the 20th century: “Learning to Be”, better known as the “Rapport Faure”, in which he mainstreamed the idea of lifelong learning. In Faure’s view, lifelong education was to become the leading educational policy principle for the future. Indeed, it became a powerful, evocative notion, nurturing dreams about “learning societies” in which people’s entire lives would be filled with opportunities to learn.

In the lifelong learning discourse, especially in its more optimistic variants in the late 20th century, there was a strong social equity argument. By creating more and better learning opportunities later in life, this argument went, the inequities in education that marked the first 25 years of a person’s life could be corrected or compensated for. A child’s schooling might be determined by his or her family background or economic and social capital; but missing out on educational opportunities early in life should not necessarily condemn individuals to be excluded from the benefits of learning later on. Second-chance or special education programmes that target low-schooled adults should ensure that providing access to education over a lifetime also results in a better redistribution of learning opportunities across society.

There is nothing wrong with beautiful ideas and dreaming of a better future. But the idea of lifelong learning encountered a fate similar to that of many dreams: the reality was much more sobering. When, in the 1990s, the first large-scale data on participation in adult education became available through the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), the verdict was that adult education did not compensate for, but rather reinforced the gap between the educational haves and have-nots. Adults who were already highly literate participated in larger numbers than those who had low levels of literacy.  

Have things changed over the past 20 years? The latest Education Indicator in Focus brief reports on adult participation in post-initial education and training as revealed in the 2012 Survey of Adult Skills, a product of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). On average across the 24 national and sub-national entities that participated in the survey, about half of the 25-64 year-old respondents had participated in formal or non-formal adult education or training. But the average hides wide variations, which are strongly associated with such factors as the respondent’s educational attainment, skills level or employment status (see the chart above). Highly educated, high-skilled adults who are employed participate much more than low-educated, low-skilled and unemployed or inactive adults. In other words, the data gathered in 2012 show similar results to the data gathered 20 years earlier. Accumulating educational opportunities, not compensating for missed opportunities early on, seems to be the dominant dynamic in lifelong learning.

But a closer look reveals three important nuances. The first is the higher level of participation in all categories since the 1990s. Although the metrics that measured participation were not quite the same, in all countries that participated in both surveys, the participation rate increased across the board. This means that low-skilled, low-educated adults have better access to learning opportunities. In 2012, 30% of low-skilled adults reported that they had participated in some form of formal or non-formal adult education or training – double the proportion of 20 years earlier.

The second is related to the enormous differences between countries, both in the average participation rate and in who participates. The average participation rate in Nordic countries is double that of Italy and the Slovak Republic, for example. And, in general, the countries with lower average participation rates are also those with wide disparities in participation, suggesting that country differences in average participation can be explained more by differences in participation rates of low-educated and low-skilled adults than by those of better educated, high-skilled adults.

The third observation directly challenges the “accumulation” view of adult education. When looking at who participates in adult education by the parents’ level of education, the gap between individuals whose parents attained below upper secondary education versus those whose parents have a tertiary degree is small, and much smaller than the gap in the educational attainment level of the respondents themselves. The impact of one’s family background on participation in adult education seems to be significantly lower than it is during compulsory education.

Lifelong learning provides educational opportunities to those who already had a lot of them. From a pedagogical point of view, this is hardly surprising, because one of the great things about learning is that it opens the mind for more. Learning begets learning as it instils the thirst for more. Sure, the educationally better-off enjoy more of lifelong learning’s promises and benefits, but not mainly because family background or previous academic success perpetuates inequalities in educational opportunities, but because learning has created its own dynamic of desire for more. Instilling a desire for learning in initial education, as part of a broader culture of learning, is the best way to ensure that as many adults as possible take advantage of educational opportunities later in life.

Education Indicators in Focus, Issue No. 26, by Simon Normandeau and Gara Rojas González
Education Indicators in Focus, Issue No. 26, French version
On this topic, visit:
Education Indicators in Focus: www.oecd.org/education/indicators 
On the OECD’s education indicators, visit:
Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators: www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm
Chart Source: OECD Education at a Glance 2014: Indicator C6 (www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm).

Friday, November 21, 2014

Trust is all we need…

by Lucie Cerna
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills

Trust is the glue that holds societies together. It is essential for most social and economic relations. Since the beginning of the economic crisis, OECD countries have been under pressure to restore trust in their institutions, especially in their governments. In a 2013 Gallup Poll, the average trust in government across OECD countries was only 42%. But there is also some good news. Citizens retain a high level of trust in their education systems (67%), health care (69%) and local police (72%) though trust levels vary across countries. The OECD’s New Approaches to Economic Challenges  and the forthcoming Trust Strategy both seek to guide member states on how to rebuild trust in their institutions in a post-crisis world.

But what is trust? It is not easily defined due to its multifaceted character. Trust can be an expectation, an interaction, a belief, an emotion or a social coordination mechanism. Several forms of trust exist, ranging from institutional trust (trust in education systems), organisational trust (between parents and school as an organisation) to interpersonal trust (between student and teacher). While the OECD has mostly focused on institutional trust, it is important to also consider interpersonal trust, both in formal and non-formal relations.

Interpersonal trust can enable the development of social capital and is a measure of social cohesion. In high-trust societies, individuals are comfortable sharing ideas and exchanging information with family, friends and fellow citizens. This can facilitate reaching a consensus among stakeholders and enable more efficient interactions between individuals. In school settings, interpersonal trust is necessary for major structural changes because it allows teachers and school leaders to engage constructively in decision-making.

So why is trust in education systems much higher than in governments? Schooling is integral to everyday life. Most respondents may relate to it whether taking their children to the local school, interacting with teachers at parent-teacher conferences or remembering their own school experience. This is likely to create much stronger connections than with politicians at the national level.

Trust is an essential element of governance and functioning systems and as such it has been interwoven in discussions on the Governing Complex Education Systems project at OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation. A recently released EDU Working Paper analyses the centrality of trust for policymaking and current governance issues. Trust enables stakeholders to take risks, facilitates interactions and cooperation, and reduces the need for control and monitoring. Trust offers flexibility to stakeholders to propose and implement innovative reforms. It allows engaging parents, students and communities as active partners. Other factors such as high levels of professionalism and attractiveness of teaching depend on it. For instance, teachers in Finland are so greatly trusted that there is no need for school inspections to take place. Teachers are also encouraged to take risks to implement innovative practices in their classrooms. The system works by trusting in a high level of professionalism and professional ethics of teachers and school leaders.

How can conducive conditions for building trust be created? An example from the United States provides some answers. Principals who favoured teacher interaction and collaboration complained about insufficient time to actually interact and build collegial trust. These principals then changed structures in order to increase interaction time: for example, by rethinking the daily schedule at school, organising more meetings and introducing a teacher room. Such changes can have a positive effect on building trust.

But what can be done when trust breaks down? There is some empirical evidence that trust can be rebuilt through, for example, greater communication, transparency and cooperation between stakeholders. Yet more transparency can only lead to more trust if it is combined with collaboration. Overall, building trust is a lengthy and difficult process. Most forms of trust require familiarity and mutual understanding, and thus depend on time and context. The social context can allow individuals to trust others more easily and to be rewarded for reciprocity in social relations. How can such an enabling context be created? Schools can play an important role in developing cognitive skills which facilitate trust development. Current work at the OECD is exploring such mechanisms, so watch this space!

Centre for Education Research and Innovation (CERI) 
OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills 
OECD Public Governance - Trust in Government
Related blogs:
Balancing trust and accountability 
How can education systems embrace innovation? 
Photo credit: Group throwing girl in the air / @Shutterstock

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What PISA can – and can’t – tell us about adults’ skills

by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Directorate for Education and Skills

Can PISA results predict the quality of a country’s labour force one decade later? To find out, we compared some of the results from the PISA 2000  and PISA 2003 tests with results from the 2012 Survey of Adult Skills (a product of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, or PIAAC). As we explain in this month’s PISA in Focus, we found that those countries where 15-year-old students achieved high scores in PISA were also the countries whose populations of young adults scored at high levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy a decade after they had participated in PISA.

While, in general, countries tend to maintain the same level of performance in literacy and numeracy as they had achieved in reading and mathematics a decade earlier, PISA results don’t tell the whole story. For example, in Ireland, 15-year-olds performed well above the average score in reading in PISA 2000, but the same cohort scored below average in the Survey of Adult Skills 12 years later. In Italy and Spain, 15-year-olds scored close to the average in reading in PISA 2000, but the same cohort scored well below average in literacy in the 2012 adult survey.

These results tell us that, not only is it important to give all students an opportunity to achieve at high levels during compulsory education, but that the skills acquired in school have to be used later on, or else they’ll be lost (Learning beyond Fifteen: Ten Years after PISA; OECD Skills Strategy). That means that adult education and training systems, employers and labour market policies all have a role to play in making sure that the skills available in a country are used effectively, and in improving the proficiency of those young people who leave school before they have acquired basic skills in literacy and numeracy – which are now a pre-requisite for enjoying full participation in 21st-century societies.

PISA 2012 Findings
PISA in Focus No. 45: Do Countries with High Mean Performance in PISA Maintain their Lead as Students Age?
PISA in Focus No. 45: (French version)
For more on OECD work on skills go to: http://skills.oecd.org/  
Photo credit: Head and Brain Gears in Progress / @Shutterstock