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Traditionally, men have tended to be more educated than women in Korea, especially when it comes to higher education. Only 34% of doctoral graduates or equivalent graduates are women, which is among the lowest shares across G7 and OECD countries. However, women in Korea have made great strides in educational attainment over the past decade. 

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If there is one area where Korea has jostled to the front of the OECD field in 20 years, it is in education. Take school performance: according to the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a renowned global benchmark which surveys competence among 15-year-olds around the world, Korea’s young students perform better at school than most of their peers in other OECD countries. In the last test in 2012, Korea led the OECD field in mathematics, was second to Japan for reading (our chart), and was in the top seven for science. Some 64 countries and economies with comparable data took the tests. In the 2009 tests Korea had also commanded a top spot. 

©Jo Yong-hak/Reuters. From edition No 297 Q4 2013

Korea’s transformation into an economic powerhouse in just 20 years is largely due to what is often claimed to be its only natural resource–its people. Huge investments in education and training boosted productivity and growth, turning the country into an international player with a booming high-tech, export-led economy. 

Kieran Clarke in his London classroom in the 1970s ©Rights reserved

Graduate teaching courses are becoming more popular again in many countries, though ageing continues to affect the profession, and making the career more attractive for longer remains a challenge. For insight, we asked a retired teacher to explain why, despite the challenges, he stayed in the job.

More than a quarter of 15-year-old school students in OECD countries fail to achieve the most basic level of profi ciency in mathematics, reading and science. In other countries, the share is often much larger. Such poor performance at school has severe consequences for individuals: low-performing students tend to have less motivation and self-confidence, will skip classes and perhaps miss days at school. In the long run, this affects their lives and compromises a country’s economic and social prospects. 

A young boy named Kalu, who had been rescued from a carpet-weaving unit in Bihar, once raised a compelling and very significant question when he met then-President Bill Clinton. In conversation with the President, Kalu politely inquired about his plans and policies with regard to the world’s children and their condition. I remember distinctly Mr Clinton trying to explain to the boy that he had virtually served his tenure and would soon be replaced by someone else who, as President, would be in a more appropriate position to initiate actions and take responsibility. To which Kalu very sincerely asked, “Why do you have to be the president to do anything for children?”

The adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) signals a clear commitment to set the world on track for a more just, prosperous and sustainable future, in which all children can reach their full potential. The challenge of sustainable development is an intergenerational one: effective action now will both improve children’s lives today and create a better future for children tomorrow.

In 2011 the Social Movement for Public Education led the biggest demonstrations since Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile. Since then, one of the main campaigns in Chilean society has been for the recognition of education as a social right, under the slogan of “free, quality, public education” (educación pública, gratuita y de calidad).

Code is the next universal language. In the 1970s punk rock drove a whole generation. In the 1980s it was probably money. For my generation, the interface to our imagination and to our world is software. This is why we need to get a more diverse set of people to see computers not as boring, mechanical and lonely things, but as something they can poke, tinker with and turn around.

A student on a demonstration in Paris holds up a sign saying “We’re all children of immigrants” ©Denis Prezat/CITIZENSIDE/AFP

Whoever has a hammer sees every problem as a nail. Those in the security business tend to see the answer to radicalism and terrorism in military might, and those in the financial business in cutting flows of money. So it is only natural for educators to view the struggle against radicalism and terrorism as a battle for hearts and minds. But the recent terrorist attacks in Europe have brought home that it is far too simplistic to depict extremists and terrorists as victims of poverty or poor qualifications. More research on the background and biographies of extremists and terrorists is badly needed, but it is clear that these people often do not come from the most impoverished parts of societies. Radicals are also found among young people from middle-class families who have ticked all the boxes when it comes to formal education. And ironically, those terrorists seem to be well equipped with the entrepreneurial, creative, global and collaborative social skills that we often promote as the goal of modern education.

©Charlotte Moreau

"Trinity has produced more entrepreneurs than any other university in Europe."

Interview with Dr Patrick Prendergast, Provost and President, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin

©Michael Dean/OECD

Nothing has demonstrated Ireland’s shift to modern economic policies more concretely than our decision to become a founder member of the OECD in 1961. Since then the OECD has been a trusted partner in our economic and social policy evolution.

©Issei Kato/REUTERS

The world is no longer divided between rich and well-educated countries and poor and badly educated ones.

Over the last three years, the United Nations has been working to establish a global sustainable development agenda to succeed the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which expire in 2015. This important agenda, comprising 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, is due to be adopted at the UN summit in September in New York.

©Julien Daniel/OECD

Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was at the OECD on 10 July to discuss France’s education reforms. She received OECD recommendations on making education more inclusive.


"A real problem for the world economy is the location mismatch between available jobs and employees."


"There are many opportunities for lifelong learning available at the click of a button, so why is it that many employers still report a 'skills gap'?"

The OECD PISA surveys of educational competence among 15-year-olds have taught policymakers many lessons since the programme was launched in 2000. They have revealed several myths as well.


Schools are places of learning and producing the innovators of tomorrow. But did you know that in most OECD countries, schools lag behind workplaces and homes in the adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) tools?

©OECD/Marco Illuminati

Eight giant balloons from Japan floated in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower on the weekend of 30 August, a reminder of one of the worst natural disasters of recent times–and of the determination of survivors to rebuild their region.

South Africa has made rapid progress in educational attainment compared with other emerging countries, with near full enrolment in primary and secondary schooling. Pre-primary schooling has expanded fast too, and so to a lesser extent has third-level education.

Chris has just received her car driving licence and wants to buy her first car. This table below shows the details of four cars she finds at a local car dealer.

Andreas Schleicher, Director of the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills ©Beawiharta Beawiharta/Reuters

What teachers–and the rest of us–can learn from the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS).

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People are by far the most important input when building quality education. So it is little surprise that teachers’ salaries represent the largest single cost item in the labour intensive education system. Salaries and working conditions play an important role in attracting, motivating and retaining skilled teachers. Teachers are the backbone of the education sector which is a crucial determinant of productivity and growth.

How do our young students perform at school compared with their peers in other countries? Are they ready and equipped to take on the world of tomorrow? The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which surveys competence among 15 year olds around the world, gives ground for encouragement. 

Classrooms need to be places for teaching creativity, as well as basic competence. Can it be done? 

© Aly Song/Reuters

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. 

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. 

Some 21% of workers are over-qualified for the jobs they do. This is a key finding in the first edition of the OECD Skills Outlook, which reports on a survey of skills among 157,000 adults in 24 countries and regions.

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