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Showing posts from October, 2015

Knowledge is power: ensuring quality early childhood education and care provision

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by Ineke Litjens
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills

Leaving a child at a nursery, crèche, pre-school or day care centre for the first time can be a daunting experience for a parent. While the small child’s tears may soon turn to laughter as they play with new toys and meet new friends, the parent may sit at home or at work checking their phone and worrying that their child is not being well looked after.

This is a reality for an increasing number of parents as more and more children participate in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings, partly due to the extension of legal entitlements to a place, free access, and subsidised parental fees or provision. This increased participation has led to governments, as well as parents, taking a keen interest in the quality of provision, because quality is key to ensuring benefits for young children, particularly those with disadvantaged backgrounds. In high quality learning environments, children develop a good basis for soc…

The innovation imperative and the design of learning systems

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by David Istance
Senior Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills

Education has become increasingly important worldwide, including politically. Probably the key driver for this is economic – the fundamental role of knowledge and skills in underpinning and maintaining prosperity. No argument has more political purchase today regarding education’s value than that it enhances competitiveness. These developments create an appetite for reform and innovation, often manifest as favouring “learning” over “education”, and a readiness to disrupt accepted institutional arrangements as too slow to change, too inward-looking, and too detached from the economic shifts taking place globally and locally.

This represents a very different starting point for innovation compared with the longstanding educational ambition to realise more holistic opportunities and promote individual development. From this perspective, the problem is not that the institutions of education are too detached from the econom…

It’s a matter of self-confidence

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by Francesca Borgonovi
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills

A sense of self-efficacy is essential if students are to fulfil their potential. Yet too many students, particularly disadvantaged students, do not have confidence in their ability to tackle mathematics tasks. This month's
PISA in Focus reveals that mathematics self-efficacy is strongly associated with mathematics performance, and that disadvantaged students are less likely to feel confident about their ability to tackle specific mathematics tasks than advantaged students, even when comparing students who perform similarly in mathematics.

Countries with higher mean performance in mathematics are those where students are more likely to report feeling confident about being able to solve a range of pure and applied mathematics problems. However, a positive relationship can also be seen within countries: students who have less mathematics self-efficacy perform worse in mathematics than students who are confident about t…

Does social background thwart aspirations for higher education?

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



Since the mid-1900s, the expansion of higher education systems has opened up opportunities for many students other than those from the elites. Higher education became the main route towards upward social mobility. Many countries designed policies to support more socially equitable, or “democratic”, access to universities, mainly by developing financial support mechanisms that compensate students from less well-off families for the study and opportunity costs associated with further education. It was seen as an essential characteristic of democracy that meritocratic access to higher education for talented and capable youth was ensured.

We now know that the social and political benefits that were expected to result from widening access to higher education were grossly overstated. In many countries, talented individuals from the middle classes and, exceptionally, the lower classe…