Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at the signing ceremony
22 October 2013, Brasília, Brazil
Minister Mercadante, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you today to mark this important occasion. Brazil is joining the Governing Board of the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as an Associate.
One of Brazil’s greatest assets is its relatively young population; but you can reap a demographic dividend only if we create the conditions for harnessing the potential and the talents of this youth. That is why I’m here with you today.
Earlier today, I launched an important report about ways of Investing in Youth alongside yourself, Minister Mercadante, and the Minister for Labour and Employment, Manoel Dias. It looks at how best to prepare our young people for the world of work through education and vocational training.
High quality education remains the best engine of social progress. It’s what helps our young people find more and better jobs. It is also what consolidates our middle classes and makes them less vulnerable to the risk of falling back into poverty and job insecurity. Making that education experience as enriching as possible is exactly what PISA is about. And that’s why the deepening of our engagement with Brazil today is so important.
Left/right: Brazil’s Minister for Education Aloízio Mercadante, with OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría
Photo©João Neto MEC
PISA helps countries assess how their school systems match up globally in terms of quality, equity and efficiency. The best performing education systems show the way forward for others. They inspire national efforts to help our students to learn better and our teachers to teach better.
And there is no better example than Brazil of a country that has accepted the opportunity that PISA offers. You have been involved in this task right from the beginning and, in terms of progress, you lead by example!
In the first ever PISA round in 2000, Brazil came near the bottom of the class. But you did your homework, and it’s paying off! By 2009, average scores were up sharply – in reading, maths and science – placing Brazil near the top of the class in terms of most-improved results. And Brazil’s education system has not only become better, it is also today more inclusive and easier to access. More than 9 in 10 school-age children now go to school.
By 2021, a year before the bicentenary of Brazil’s independence, you are aiming to reach the average PISA score – ambitious but achievable given the impressive progress notched up so far.
Yes, challenges remain, and there is a long distance left to travel, but Brazil has, in many ways, marked out a trail for others to follow. This trail demonstrates the importance of:
- a strong commitment to education and children;
- cultural support for universal high achievement; and
- improving teacher performance by establishing standards of excellence and by training and retaining highly qualified professionals.
These valuable lessons show just how much Brazil’s experience brings to the table. I am therefore honoured and delighted that Brazil now joins the PISA Governing Board as an Associate – the first ever non-OECD country to take this important step.
Brazil will be at the centre of decision-making in one of the OECD’s flagship programmes. We can now look forward to Brazil not only making further progress by benchmarking itself against PISA standards but also actively shaping the longer-term development of the programme with a view to helping other countries. Today, the programme has more than 80 participating countries.
This means defining the knowledge and skills that are key to the success of students, and making these measurable in ways that make sense for every culture. Many partner countries and PISA participants will now look to Brazil not only as an education reform champion but also as a country that shares and understands their aspirations and interests.
Ladies and gentlemen:
As every parent knows, there are few greater responsibilities than giving the next generation the best possible start in life, the tools to make the most of their potential. This is important work – work that will now be the richer for Brazil’s unique perspective and enhanced engagement.
We look forward to working with Brazil on PISA and other areas as we work together to implement “better policies for better lives”. Minister, this is not the beginning but the deepening of a great friendship between the OECD and Brazil.
Thank you very much.