© 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. 

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.

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. 

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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.

An interview with Nina Alida Abouna, Managing Director of the Investment and Export Promotion Agency (APIEX)

 

An interview with Thierno Bocar Tall, CEO of African Biofuels and Renewable Energy Company (ABREC)

 

The Université de Sherbrooke is a part of the North American university landscape that just can’t be ignored.

 

The University of Geneva addresses a challenge for the individuals and for the world.

©Mark Wessels/Reuter

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?

©Isaac Kasamani/AFP

Several efforts and interventions have been directed towards resolving the myriad issues that impinge on peace, security and development in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

If you didn't make the OECD Week this week, watch this 4 minute summary posted below:

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.     

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”.    

©Dmitry Kalinovsky

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.  

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People who have completed tertiary education can generally expect to earn more than those who don’t. But governments and societies benefit from these people’s investments as well.

©Christopher Furlong/Getty Images/AFP

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.

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.

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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.

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.

©TUAC

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.

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Will this be Asia’s century? When it comes to growth and social progress, there have been heady leaps forward, with every prospect of continued dynamism over the next five years. But according to the Southeast Asian Economic Outlook 2013, if there is a blot on the map, it is in tackling poverty and the wide development gaps that bedevil the continent.

The shortfalls of GDP that were already apparent before the crisis but made starker during it have led to a panoply of new initiatives to find metrics that can measure wellbeing rather than just economic growth. But while GDP has stood accused of overlooking the environment and human well-being, it has one advantage which policymakers and analysts appreciate: the methods are objective and clear. Whether measuring output or expenditure in an economy, GDP produces a single number that is easy to adjust and compare.

©REUTERS/Amr Dalsh

The Arab Spring and the rise of new social and democratic movements throughout large parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) may not have changed the world quite as much as millions had hoped, but at least they gave a new impetus to the use of information and communications technology and the potential of “e-government” to foster participation and engagement, increase transparency and restore public trust. 

©Blend images/Alamy

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.

©Reuters/Andrea Comas

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.

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. 

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