In Europe, the year 2015 will be remembered as the year of the “refugee crisis.” Hundreds of thousands of refugees have crossed treacherous waters and borders to flee war and persecution in Syria and the wider Middle East and Africa in search of protection in the European Union. Transit and destination countries have been struggling to manage the refugee flow and to register and shelter the new arrivals. At the same time, the EU is debating how best to tackle the sources of forced displacement and is stepping up support to Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, who host the lion’s share of Syrian refugees. But largely missing from the frenetic activity so far, except in Germany, has been a thorough discussion of the next step: how to manage the integration of refugees in host countries beyond the initial humanitarian response of shelter and food.
Since 2000, the OECD’s Programme for International Assessment (PISA) has been measuring the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in over 70 countries. PISA does not just examine whether students have learned what they were taught, but also assesses whether students can creatively and critically use what they know.
Child marriage. It’s a phrase that was barely uttered or understood in the global development community even just 10 years ago. Yet over this past decade, some 140 million girls, most living in the developing world, have married before the age of 18, forcing them to drop out of school and become pregnant before their bodies and minds are ready. Child marriage may also lead to increased intimate partner violence, restricted mobility, limited access to families or friends, and limited ability to engage in their community’s and country’s development.
This Children’s Day, I am thinking back to an event on the link between quality education and inclusive growth that we had last month in Lima, Peru. The event was memorable not only because of Eric Hanushek’s excellent presentation and the lively panel discussion that followed, but also because there were many students from Lima in the audience.
A month later, I still remember the young faces and how intently they were paying attention to everything that was being said about their futures. At the time, I thought, this is how it should be. There should always be children and youth involved and engaged when the discussion is about them.
I just returned from Paris where I had the pleasure of participating in a defining moment for the global education community: the adoption of the Education 2030 Framework for Action.
This Framework will guide countries through the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goal 4 (adopted at the United Nations in September), which says that all girls and boys should complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education by 2030.
Anyone working in education is familiar with the story of Finland’s remarkable evolution into one of the world’s top-performing education systems. The country ranked fifth in science and sixth in reading on the 2012 PISA assessment, second on the 2012 PIAAC (the new OECD test of adult literacy) , and is routinely in the top five of practically every other international measure of education quality. To visitors from standards-and-accountability-heavy countries such as the UK and the US, or from low-performing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), Finland’s formula can seem like magic. All teachers have a Master’s degree. There is no student testing. There are no school inspections or rankings. Students have little homework and teachers work few hours. Teachers are trusted professionals with full autonomy in the classroom.
My study tour to Finland in September 2015 convinced me that this formula is indeed magic. Why? Because the popular version of the “Finnish story” neglects elements of the institutional context that are so hard-wired into the system that the locals hardly register them. Three crucial elements, in particular, create an accountability framework that makes it possible for the “magic” to work.
With Ciro Avitabile
If I could plot the number of bad decisions I’ve made throughout my life against my age there would certainly be a large hump between 15 and 18. Among the many bad decisions I made during adolescence—and believe me there were many- leaving school never even crossed my mind. To stay in high school, I not only had to be present but needed to put in a minimum effort not to fail more than a certain number of subjects which would jeopardize my right to enroll the following year.
Con la colaboración de Ciro Avitabile
Si pudiera graficar la cantidad de decisiones desacertadas que he tomado durante mi vida en función de la edad que tenía al momento de tomarlas, no cabe duda de que observaría una gran concentración de malas decisiones entre los 15 y los 18 años. Entre las numerosas decisiones desacertadas que tomé en la adolescencia —y, créanme, fueron muchas— jamás me pasó por la mente abandonar mis estudios. Para poder seguir en el bachillerato, no solo tenía que asistir a clases, sino que debía poner un esfuerzo mínimo para no reprobar más de una cierta cantidad de materias y arriesgar mi derecho a matricularme el año siguiente.
This week I was invited to speak at The Economist’s Higher Education Forum in New York to share my thoughts on how higher education can be expanded. I believe that we need a fair and sustainable cost-recovery model at the university level using future earnings to finance current education.
Over the past two decades, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of university students and graduates worldwide, which should have led to decrease in the rate of return to investment to higher education – if supply outpaced demand, of course. While there has been some decrease in overall rates of return, investment in education is still a highly profitable investment. Global demand for high levels skills such as working with new information and problem-solving has kept the returns to schooling high in even the poorest countries of the world. In fact, the returns to higher education are higher in lower-income countries – except in the Middle East and North Africa due to rigid labor market regulations.
The Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs)—a set of international targets adopted by the international community last September at the United Nations—recognizes the central role that quality education for all plays in global development.
In South Asian countries, raising the quality of education is already a key policy objective given the development trajectories of these countries and the human capital they need to sustain economic growth.
While school enrollment in South Asia has significantly increased in the last two decades, access to quality education for all remains elusive. A major obstacle to achieving the SDGs by 2030 in South Asia is that vast numbers of children who are in school are not acquiring even basic skills such as reading and numeracy.