Socioemotional skills (also referred to as non-cognitive skills, character skills, or soft skills) have recently become part of the discourse on how to improve educational outcomes. There is growing evidence that those skills may be as important as intelligence in determining academic and professional success. There is already some evidence indicating that socioemotional skills can be encouraged.
Comparing two middle-income countries is not unusual, but two that are geographically far and are apparently different is less common. However, both Turkey and Peru have had the highest growth in their respective regions in recent years, aspire to become high-income economies in the next decade, depend on trade. Both countries face downside risks if structural changes—in the education and training system, and the economy more broadly—are not made to ensure that contributions to economic growth come from improvements in productivity. Both countries recognize there is a large gap between their productivity levels and the global productivity frontier, and both have growing populations that are not adequately equipped to meet labor market needs, with average productivity levels. Given these (similar) challenges, both countries have as their development goal, central to their development agenda, to improve productivity to continue growing in a sustainable manner.
When Finnish students scored amongst the top in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA, a very influential international assessment administered by the OECD) in 2001, many people in the field of education were intrigued. How could this small nation, which had not been characterized by surprisingly high results in the past, be on the top? Finns themselves were surprised. When students continued scoring above expectations year after year, educators and leaders all over the world began studying the country as an example of how to build effective education systems. Not only do students consistently attain high performance, but the achievement gaps between pupils and regions are amongst the narrowest in the world. Equity with quality.
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Countries with the best education outcomes are those in which society places high value on the teaching profession. That value is reflected in the relationship between the state, society, and the teacher; in the support given to teachers (including reasonable salaries), in the trust placed in them; and in the recognition bestowed upon them by society, parents, and the community as well as the value they place on the tremendous responsibility that they bear.