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OECD Perspectives: Trends shaping education 2016

Andreas Schleicher

- Education

- May 24 2016

The OECD has published its latest assessment of the many different issues that affect education around the world. From globalisation and climate change, to rising inequality and new technology, all of these factors have an impact. We talk to Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD's Secretary-General, about the findings for 2016.

Andreas Schleicher

OECD, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills

How will this study help people to understand the factors influencing education today?

Trends Shaping Education provides an overview of key economic, social, demographic and technological trends and raises questions about their potential impact on education. The future is inherently unpredictable, yet everyone – including policy makers and school leaders in education – needs to take it into account. Trends Shaping Education can help us do this.

What are the main short- and long-term trends affecting education?

If we look specifically at globalisation, some of the ways education can affect and be affected by global trends are obvious and immediate, for example through the teaching of foreign languages, integration of migrants, and global competencies for business and trade. Others are less obvious, or more long-term, for example the impact of climate change on planning and school infrastructure, or addressing the issue of brain drain in lower income economies as the best educated and citizens choose to study (and potentially live) abroad. These issues require strategic planning, and also a holistic approach which examines the impact and interplay of global trends with education as a whole.

What is the biggest single issue facing the education sector?

The greatest challenge is rising inequality. In OECD countries, the gap between rich and poor is at its highest level in 30 years. Household debt has been rising, and youth are now at greatest risk of living in poverty. This can lead to conflict and tension, particularly in diverse urban areas. And new technologies are changing the game, for better or for worse. While they can boost citizen engagement and empowerment (eg, the Arab Spring), they also allow individuals and organisations to stay one step ahead of the law (eg, terrorists using social media). There is a lot of pressure placed on education to act as one of the major levers to reduce inequality, but it cannot act alone. And of course other key trends such as climate change, ageing populations and shifting labour force needs all interact with inequality and education as well.

How has the format of your report evolved since it began in 2008?

The general focus has remained the same, starting with “big picture” global changes before honing in on the individual trends. New features of the 2016 edition include a special chapter on cities and a mapping of the interactions between the trends themselves. In addition, each chapter also has a new section that provides a more systemic view of the trends and their links to education.

How has the content of the report evolved during that time?

The biggest change over time is on technology, as this is the sector that is evolving most rapidly. The earliest edition focused on access and connectivity, while the most recent one covers social networks, privacy and cyber risks, and biotechnology. These changes are driven by the sector itself, but also by user feedback. The work is used in a number of ways, including presentations at national and global events, inclusion in the curriculum in teacher education in Iceland, as a textbook in university courses in a variety of countries, and more.

Learn more on the Trends Shaping Education 2016 report

Andreas SchleicherDirector for the Directorate of Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD's Secretary-General

About the OECD: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a global economic policy forum. It provides analysis and advice to its 34 member governments and other countries worldwide, promoting better policies for better lives. 

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