Learning has highest return rates

Nieuws | de redactie
11 maart 2013 | European students are much less likely to invest money in their own education than Asian or American students. “Even though this is a far better investment than any long-term investment on the financial markets”, says OECD education expert Andreas Schleicher.

Which of your own teachers has had the most profound influence on yourself?

“I have been lucky enough with some great teachers: teachers who inspired me, who opened up new worlds for me; and who I remember as people who changed the course of my life and deepened the meaning of it.”

“One of them was Mr. Färber, who conducted the youth orchestra. He was extremely demanding but that’s where I learned so many of the qualities that count for me today, to invest effort, to combine attention to detail with appreciation of the big picture, to exercise autonomy within a collaborative environment.”

Has the economic crisis made countries more resourceful in finding investments for education? Which countries pose good examples?

“Our data show that spending per student explains less than one fifth of the performance variation among education systems in the industrialized world. Many of the high performing education systems don’t spend much, but make very effective spending choices, always prioritizing the quality of teachers over things like the size of classes.”

“Italy and Spain have made some steps into that direction but the effectiveness and efficiency of resource use in schools leaves generally still substantial room for improvement. The most worrying trend have been across-the board cuts that could have a really negative impact on learning outcomes.”

Has the OECD investigated the willingness of people to invest in their own education? Would you say that economically these investments have the highest return rates compared to other kinds of investments?

“In East Asia, students and families invest very significant amounts of time and money into their education, and with very high returns. This is generally also true in North America. In Europe, individuals often hesitate to invest their own money into their education, even though our data show that this is a far better investment than any long-term investment on the financial markets.”

“It is true that high levels of tuition can make it harder for disadvantaged students to obtain a tertiary degree. But social inequities in access to college education that result from a high financial burden on households need to be balanced against inequities that would have been the result of limited growth because of financial and capacity constraints.”

“That also explains why OECD data show no cross-country relationship between the level of tuition countries charge and the participation of disadvantaged youth in tertiary education. One reason why some countries do well with providing equitable college access despite charging high levels of tuition is that they provide universal and income-contingent loan systems for students.”

In ‘Education at a glance 2012’ the OECD observes a growing gap in earnings between people with higher education and those with lower levels of education: a ‘knowledge premium’. What risk for social instability rises from this?

“Absolutely, this is a very worrying trend. In one way, skills have become the currency of 21st economies. Never before have those with high levels of skills had the kind of life chances they enjoy today, and that is despite the economic crisis. But never before have the penalties that individuals and nations pay who struggle with the transition to the knowledge economy have been larger too.”

“The bottom line is simple: Without the right skills, people are kept on the margins of society, technological progress doesn’t translate into economic growth, and countries can’t compete in today’s economies.”

“The answer is simple, we need to equip more people with the skills they need to collaborate, compete and connect in ways that drive our societies forward. At the same time, we should not forget that more education does not automatically translate into better economic and social outcomes. There is this toxic co-existence of unemployed graduates on our streets, while employers tell us that they cannot find the people with the skills they need.”

“To succeed with converting better skills into better jobs and lives we need to understand what those skills are that drive success and outcomes. We then need to ensure that the right skill mix is being delivered in effective, equitable and efficient ways. Our economies need to make good use of those skills. And we need to figure out much more creatively who should pay for what, when and how when it comes to the development of skills.”

You’ve said with regard to school systems, “Success is possible in reasonably short periods of time”. What is needed from next week’s International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP) to make a difference in a short period of time, say in one to five years? 

“The best performing education systems show clearly that we can do a lot better to make teaching a more attractive career choice that invites the best candidates:

-to provide high-quality initial teacher education and good mentoring
-to help teachers work with professional autonomy in a collaborative culture and with great school leaders
-to evaluate teachers rigorously and to offer them effective in-service professional development and attractive career structures
-and to engage teachers as active agents in the design and implementation of educational reform and innovation.

These are the issues the summit will discuss next week and I believe they can make a big difference.”

This week Amsterdam will host the third edition of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession. ScienceGuide.eu will keep you posted on the results of the summit.

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