Education International
Education International

OECD acknowledges social and economic benefits of education

published 6 November 2010 updated 6 November 2010

OECD education ministers have reaffirmed their view that reforming education systems around the world will be necessary to reinforce the social and economic benefits of education.

At the Organisation for economic co-operation and development (OECD) Education ministerial meeting "Investing in Human and Social Capital: New Challenges" held on 4-5 November in Paris, France, ministers also declared that "literacy and foundation skills should be reinforced. At the same time, non-cognitive skills such as creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and team work are important for both economic and social outcomes. We have to take responsibility for children with special needs or learners requiring tailored support."

"The best contribution education can make in helping to tackle societies’ many problems," they added, "is to better fulfil its core mission. Here too, we need to work together and adopt a ‘whole-of-government’ approach. We recognize the urgent need to address inequality of opportunity and equity issues and to reinforce the capacity of education systems to deliver on their goals."

Bob Harris, Senior Consultant for Education International and chair of the Trade Union Advisory Committee Working Group on Education, Training and Employment Policy, participated in a panel at the OECD Education Policy Forum, which took place alongside the ministerial meeting.

Here is the piece Harris published in Education Today:

A little bit utopian

“When the untapped potential of a child meets the creative imagination of a teacher, a miracle occurs.” - Mary Hatwood Futrell, Founding President of Education International

The vocation of teaching is, or ought to be, one of constant renewal. “New thinking, new approaches” is the title for the session in which I'll be speaking at the OECD Education Ministers' Forum tomorrow. Actually, this title sounds more like a slogan. When political decision-makers call for “new thinking, new approaches”, they often mean looking for ways of saving money. But the real challenge is to bring about fresh approaches where they count most - in the classroom. And the challenge for policy makers is to create the conditions enabling that to happen. Over-emphasis on narrow “metrics” won't do it. There are things in education you can't measure. Policies like linking teachers' pay to student performance won't do it either. Such approaches are inherently reductionist. They overlook something essential about education: the miracle of opening young minds to knowledge, to their own capacities, to creativity, to motivation. Jacques Delors proposed 10 years ago in a report for UNESCO on Education for the 21st century, four “pillars of learning”. Learning “to know”. Learning “to do” (skills). Learning “to be” (realizing one's potential). And learning “to live with others”. Good teachers build on these four pillars to foster a complete learning experience for their pupils. Their reward actually comes from seeing those miracles come about, day after day, year after year. It doesn't come from performance-related pay. Sounds a little bit utopian? Maybe. Delors called education “the necessary utopia”. And that's really what motivates many, many teachers. That little bit of utopia is what keeps them going.