The purpose of any education system is to equip learners with the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life. Currently, East Asia is home to seven of the top ten education systems in the world. Despite impressive achievements, these above-average performing systems are not resting on their accomplishments—they continue to deepen the quality of education, tying learning to new and emerging needs. Central to the region’s curriculum reform is a focus on teaching and measuring 21st century skills.
Las habilidades socioemocionales (también llamadas habilidades no cognitivas, del carácter o interpersonales) han ocupado recientemente el centro del debate (PDF, en inglés) sobre cómo mejorar los resultados educativos. Cada vez hay más pruebas (PDF, en inglés) de que estas habilidades son tan importantes como la inteligencia para determinar el éxito académico y profesional. Existen algunas evidencias que indican que las habilidades socioemocionales pueden potenciarse.
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.
Cuando los estudiantes finlandeses obtuvieron en el año 2001 los puntajes más altos en la prueba del Programa Internacional de Evaluación de Estudiantes (PISA) —pruebas de aprendizaje implementadas por la OCDE, numerosas personas en el campo de la educación se sintieron intrigadas. ¿Cómo este pequeño país, que no se había caracterizado por lograr buenos resultados en el pasado, pudo situarse en la parte superior de la clasificación? Los mismos finlandeses se sorprendieron. Cuando los estudiantes finlandeses continuaron obteniendo puntajes por encima de lo esperado año tras año, educadores y líderes de todo el mundo comenzaron a ver al país como un ejemplo de lo que se debe hacer para crear sistemas educativos eficaces. No sólo los estudiantes logran sistemáticamente un alto desempeño, sino también las diferencias en el rendimiento académico entre alumnos y regiones son las más bajas en el mundo. Equidad con calidad.
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.
Collecting data in education can be a tricky business. After spending considerable resources to design a representative study, enlist and train data collectors, and organize the logistics of data collection, we want to ensure that we capture as true a picture of the situation on the ground as possible. This can be particularly challenging when we attempt to measure complex concepts, such as child development, learning outcomes, or the quality of an educational environment.
Data can be biased by many factors. For example, the very act of observation by itself can influence behavior. How can we expect a teacher to behave “normally” when outsiders sit in her or his classroom taking detailed notes about everything they do? Social desirability bias, where subjects seek to represent themselves in the most positive light, is another common challenge. Asking a teacher, “Do you hit children in your classroom?” may elicit an intense denial, even if the teacher still has a cane in one hand and the ear of a misbehaving child in another.
Guest blog by: Margo Hoftijzer, formerly a Senior Economist in the Education Global Practice of the World Bank.
Work-based learning is a hot topic when discussing the transition of young graduates from school to work. Whether we talk about apprenticeships, dual vocational education and training, or work placements, it is recognized worldwide that there are strong benefits when students gain real workplace experience before they join the workforce.
The many benefits of work-based learning
When implemented effectively, students don’t only gain relevant practical skills, but they also strengthen essential socio-emotional skills, such as the ability to work in teams, problem solving, and time management. Firms benefit as well. They can tailor the programs to ensure that students acquire those skills that are most relevant for their enterprises, and they get to know their trainees well so that they can select the best for recruitment later. Moreover, during the period of work-based learning itself, firms benefit from the trainees’ contributions to the work processes of the enterprise, usually at low costs.
We all hear about the importance of “socio-emotional skills” when looking for a job. Employers are said to be looking for individuals who are hardworking, meet deadlines, are reliable, creative, collaborative … the list goes on depending on the occupation. In recent years, it seems, these skills have become equally important as technical skills. But do employers really care about these soft skills when hiring? If so, what type of personality do they favor?