25/07/2002 - OECD Secretary-General Donald J. Johnston announced the creation of a new Education Directorate within the OECD Secretariat, as part of a drive to enhance the OECD's work in this area in response to the needs of citizens and governments.
"Education is a priority for OECD member countries and the OECD is playing an increasingly important role in this field," said Mr. Johnston, a former minister in the Canadian government with a longstanding interest in educational issues. "Society's most important investment is in the education of its people. We suffer in the absence of good education: we prosper in its presence."
The new directorate will be headed by Barry McGaw, an Australian who is Deputy Director for Education in the OECD's current Directorate for Education, Employment, Labour and Social Affairs , now to become the Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs.
One major component of the OECD's work on education concerns strategies for making lifelong learning a reality for all. This includes work on barriers to investment in lifelong learning , strategies for making learning accessible in terms of pedagogy and the location of learning; and ways in which educational institutions can develop their students' skills and motivation for lifelong learning.
A second major component involves the development and production of quantitative indicators of education systems. This includes the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), under which 15-year-olds in all OECD Member countries and a growing number of non-Member countries are assessed for reading literacy, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy and an increasing range of cross-curricular competencies.
The new Education Directorate will focus in particular on issues of lifelong learning, the development of human capital and the role of education in social cohesion, Dr. McGaw said. "OECD countries differ in the quality of the foundations they lay in initial education. PISA has shown that clearly. But national efforts to develop the skills of their people cannot end there. Skill demands in work and life change. Accessible, effective lifelong learning is essential," he said.
Before joining the OECD in 1998, Dr. McGaw was Executive Director of the Australian Council for Educational Research, an independent, not-for-profit company established in Melbourne in 1930. Prior to that, he had been Professor of Education at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. A graduate in chemistry from the University of Queensland in Australia, he later studied psychology, completing his PhD in educational psychology and psychometrics at the University of Illinois in the U.S.
Dr. McGaw has extensive experience in issues of curriculum and assessment in the upper secondary years, including selection procedures for higher education. He chaired governmental review Committees investigating these issues in two Australian State systems and, in a third, acted as sole reviewer and author of a public discussion document and a report with recommendations. In all three cases, the government involved substantially accepted and implemented the recommendations.
Since joining the OECD, Dr. McGaw has served as one of three members of an Independent Panel on A-level Standards, appointed by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in England; as a member of a group convened by Educational Testing Service in the US to develop a framework for the assessment of information and communication technology (ICT ) competencies; as a member of the Irish National Qualifications Authority; as a member of the Academic Affairs Board of the International Baccalaureate; and as a member of the Council of the University of London Institute of Education.
For further comment, journalists are invited to contact
Dr. Barry McGaw (Tel:  1 45 24 92 10).