In a global economy, the benchmark for educational success is no longer improvement by national standards alone, but the best performing school systems internationally. Latest results from the PISA assessment, the world’s metric for evaluating learning outcomes at school, issued 3 December, show striking changes in the world’s talent.(613 words)
Here’s a sobering statistic: in around 20 of the world’s wealthiest countries, at least one in 10 adults can make sense of only basic texts. Ask them a question based on a piece of writing, and they’ll be able to answer only if the text is short, uses simple vocabulary and provides clues by repeating words used in the question.(729 words)
Everyone needs to be sufficiently financially literate to take informed decisions for themselves and their families as to their savings, investments, pensions and more. But in many countries, women have lower financial knowledge than men, and are less confident in their financial knowledge and skills.(231 words)
President Ali Bongo Ondimba has set himself the goal of placing Gabon among the emerging nations. Could you explain to us what this project involves and what means have been adopted to achieve this goal?(928 words)
Could you give us a brief introduction to ABREC?(256 words)
The Université de Sherbrooke is a part of the North American university landscape that just can’t be ignored. Since its establishment in 1954, the Université de Sherbrooke has consistently put student success at the centre of its concerns, integrated innovation in all of its actions, and become a genuine model for pioneering in terms of teaching, research, and sustainable development.(682 words)
From 1980 till now, the number of people aged 60 and more went from some 380 million to more than 760 million. And the United- Nations projections predict 2 billion by 2050. Those figures are often used to provoke fear. As a matter of fact, since the world population as a whole will continue to increase, in the mid of the 21st century, elderly will represent 15 to 18 percents of our planet’s inhabitants, with peaks until 28/30 percents in the most affected countries. Ageing will obviously transform our societies, but not necessarily break them. It will require a considerable effort of adaptation from not only States, but also from families and individuals.(584 words)
In 2010 South Africa became the first African country to host the FIFA soccer World Cup, which is one of the biggest global sporting events on earth. Was it a triumph and what lessons could be drawn? OECD Observer: You were a member of the Local Organising Committee for the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup. How big a challenge was that for your country?(804 words)
Developing countries are a broad group. At the top of the pile are emerging powerhouses such as Brazil and China. At the bottom are a poor group called fragile states, such as Afghanistan and Somalia. Fragile states lack capacity to carry out basic governance functions and are unable to develop constructive relation with society. They are home to half of all children not in primary school and half of all children who die before reaching their fifth birthday. In the next decade, these countries will be the main battlegrounds in the war against global poverty, breeding instability with regional and sometimes global consequences.(358 words)
Dignity is all about people. Dignity is intrinsic–we’re all born with it. But dignity is also relational and is created among, and between people. Many of us don’t think about this, or notice it in our daily lives. But that’s only because we, our families and friends are fortunate enough to live relatively privileged lives. And because it can be difficult to establish the number of people living in difficult conditions–and their voices are less often heard.(649 words)
Ironically, the biggest challenge now for the US middle class may be contending with the potency of the “American Dream” internationally. . President Obama starkly captured this prospect in a graduation address. His audience was black but the message was clearly and accurately aimed at all young Americans who have learned how to make excuses: “We’ve got no time for excuses–not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t,” he said.(179 words)
Until now considered a model in terms of reducing poverty and inequality, Brazil has recently faced the wrath of hundreds of thousands of protesters from across all sections of society, riling up against inflation, while calling for better access to health care, education and other public services.OECD analyst Horacio Levy explains.(452 words)
Development efforts are often hampered by poor or non-existent data. While attempts are being made to address this, much more needs to be done to improve official data by developing countries themselves, particularly as new development goals are set for the post-2015 period.(1204 words)
In the land of tabloid terrors, immigrants loom large. Flick through the pages or online comments of some of the racier newspapers, and you’ll see immigrants being accused of stealing jobs or, if not that, of being workshy and “scrounging benefits”.(521 words)
You’ve probably heard that silly old adage, where someone asks someone else if they “ate lead paint chips” as a child, after they did something stupid or silly. The effects of lead poisoning, however, are not silly. Many academics believe lead poisoning in children correlates to spikes in crime more than any other single factor. Granted, though it takes more than a noticeable pattern to establish causality, the meta-analysis of other factors all seem to point in the direction of lead.(657 words)
Under the guild system in medieval Europe, a journeyman was someone who, having finished his seven-year apprenticeship, travelled from town to town offering his services for a day’s wages (hence “journeyman” from the French “journée”, meaning a day). After a few years of this itinerant life, he might submit a “masterpiece” to the relevant guild, whose members would evaluate his work and decide whether to admit him to the guild and confer the title of “master” upon him.(1178 words)
A welcome sense of cautious optimism is building around the preparations for the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg in September, setting the tone for policymakers to take a renewed interest in coordinating their national action agendas to address pressing global challenges.(989 words)
The last few months have been marked by slightly better news on the economy, with signs of a recovery in the EU area in particular. But these are early days and challenges remain. John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC), is not holding his breath. He explains why to the OECD Observer.(439 words)
One of the biggest targets for reform in the pursuit of leaner government budgets is public sector pay and performance. Because of the crisis, some countries have frozen or even reduced salaries, while others have preferred to reduce benefits, even pensions. Others have decided to do nothing for the moment.(314 words)
Job losses can prove costly for individuals, as well as to society. Financial distress, for example, can lead to health problems and crime. While policies like unemployment benefits, job-search assistance and skills training can help ease the personal impact of job loss, they can be expensive. Consequently, governments also turn to policies that protect employees from losing their jobs in the first place.(232 words)
Few countries have suffered the scourge of high youth unemployment as much as Spain has. There, the unemployment rate for under 25-year-olds exceeded 50% in 2012, nearly three times the OECD average. However, the crisis has not been the only cause of this; in fact, high rates of youth unemployment are not a recent phenomenon in Spain.(345 words)
Larry Page and Sergey Brin were young doctoral students when they created the company we now know as Google. Virgin’s Richard Branson started out in business as a teenager selling records. These big names are just part of a long list of young entrepreneurs that made it in business, a list that could include the founders of Facebook, e-Bay, France’s Free telecom and more.(633 words)
Patients in most OECD countries face long hospital waiting times, whether for primary care, out-patient specialist care or even emergency care. Tax payers rightly expect better service, and hospital waiting times are understandably a contentious political issue.(210 words)
Lessons for educators
What are the key issues to know when devising better policies for education or simply trying to improve learning programmes? Here are some personal reflections.
1. In the global economy, the benchmark for educational success is no longer merely improvement by local or national standards, but the best performing education systems internationally.
How can we increase employment and strengthen social cohesion? The prime minister of Norway argues that we need urgent action to ensure that an entire generation of young people remains connected to the labour market. We must also address the issue of income distribution to protect the vulnerable and guarantee greater equality of opportunity across our societies.
Growth is not enough
Brazil’s labour leaders have long argued against pursuing economic growth for its own sake. What matters most, they believe, is not the size of the economic pie but how it’s carved up. In recent years, calls for social justice have increasingly informed policy in Brazil, bringing about a veritable “revolution” in the economy.
The current crisis has continued to affect people’s lives across the world, and nowhere is this more evident than in the deteriorating labour market in many countries. Young people have been hit particularly hard and risk being permanently scarred from joblessness and even exclusion.(856 words)
Ultimately the economic crisis is about people, says Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s minister of foreign affairs. That is why respecting human rights and adherence to democratic principles are fundamental when addressing the current economic crisis. We are in this together, so we need multilateral solutions more than ever.(975 words)
Education for all
Young people from poorer families are badly underrepresented in higher education. That risks exposing them to a lifetime of reduced earnings and undermines the foundations of wider economic growth. What can be done? Economically disadvantaged students benefit from a mix of grants and loans in third-level education, but they also need better support from the earliest years of their school careers.
The cost of mistrust
Trust is at the heart of today’s complex global economy. But, paradoxically, trust is also in increasingly short supply in many of our societies, especially in our attitudes towards big business, parliaments and governments. This decline threatens our capacity to tackle some of today’s key challenges.
The new performance frontier
By helping emphasise the importance of a “better life” as a key component of societal progress, the OECD has made considerable efforts in recent years to help promote a school of thought that places people’s well-being at the heart of economic growth. After examining the issue of growth and productivity gains, and recognising the question of the environmental cost of our economic activity, the time has come to turn our attention to another area that is equally crucial: fostering a more human economy.
Trusting in crowds
“Crowdsourcing” pools the strength of the many to perform complex tasks–everything from funding a film to sequencing DNA. At its heart is trust–not a blanket belief in great institutions, but rather the confidence among individuals that each will do the right thing. Its power is being increasingly felt today, even in the world of international development.
As humans, we face a constant internal conflict between immediate gratification and more prudent living. This conflict is also apparent in society. How can we ensure that the homo economicus within us takes the decisions that best affect our lives, and economies?(43 words)
In 2002 Henry Copeland, chief of Blogads and Pressflex.com, wrote about how blogs, largely unknown at the time, would change web writing and publishing forever. He was right. Then in 2008 in these pages, he told us to bet on Twitter several months before it took off (the OECD opened its first accounts in April 2009). So where is the information world taking us now? Henry provides some fresh thoughts.(645 words)
People create policy, but underpinning their work, and in some ways hidden from view, is a well-developed, smart information and communications infrastructure. It is a fundamental driver of progress.(697 words)
Democracy is a good thing; transparency is too, and so is openness. Nothing too controversial in this statement, you might think. The veil of ignorance is slowly but steadily being lifted from the eyes of the general public across the world thanks to thriving media, innovation in global communications and the pressure on governments to open up and reach out.(1042 words)
Will the world economy brighten in 2014 compared with 2013?
- President Nelson Mandela: Some personal reflections
- Lessons from PISA outcomes
- Tax, decentralisation and intergovernmental relations
- Sahel: the search for security
- Who’s smiling now?
- Banking, ethics and good principles
- France and PISA: spurring reform?
- Measuring development goals
- Innovation in Latin America
- Stormy waters