Learning for life


The demands of the 21st century are forcing us to rethink learning. If improving literacy worldwide was the focus of 20th century education, it is perhaps now more about lifelong learning and equal opportunity.

Education does not necessarily guarantee you a job, or the job you want, but in good times and bad the higher your education level, the less likely you are to be unemployed. The more educated you are, the better prepared you are to reinvent yourself over the course of your career.

Education does not make everyone equal but it can go a long way toward providing equal opportunity. While women achieve more than 60% of university degrees, they still earn less than men in the workplace. Young women are five percentage points more likely than young men to become better educated than their parents (40% compared with 35%), while young men are more likely than young women to have lower educational attainment than their parents (15% compared with 11%).

While more people are completing higher education in OECD countries, children from low income and immigrant backgrounds continue to lag behind in primary and secondary school. Tapping into their talents could bring valuable creativity, skill and innovation to our economies.

Starting young

The foundation for successful lifelong learning comes before we even start formal education – pre-school programmes really are the gift that keeps on giving. Students at 15 with an extra year of pre-school do better than those without, OECD figures show. This gives pause for thought, particularly in light of the fact that one in five of 15 year old students (19%) in OECD countries lacks basic literacy skills. This makes it all the harder for them to benefit from educational opportunities later in life.

Immigrants are particularly affected. Reading levels for immigrant students are up to a year and a half behind those of native students. This emphasizes the need for affordable programs that help students and workers to break out of the cycle of disadvantage that grips low educated families and impoverished communities. As long as low income equates to a lower education level, societal potential will be lost.

Skilling up

And of course the skills you learn need to be matched to the work available -- The OECD Employment Outlook 2012 shows that those who do find a job often are overqualified for their position. Specialized programs set up by employers and governments provide people with skills to match their jobs throughout their working life.  Job-specific training capitalises on a person’s ability to adapt and transforms  skills that have become outdated in our fast paced world. Accessible and effective skill training further improves the dexterity of the economy as it responds to crisis. 

Data Vizualization Competition

The OECD and have launched a data visualization global competition around Education at a Glance 2012. Your challenge is to visualize the economic costs and returns on education. Your design should encourage comparison across the countries, and should reveal the individual statistics that go into these indicators. Ready?
>> Learn more


Further Information

OECD Skills Assessment project (PIAAC)

OECD work on Employment

What should students learn in 21st ? (OECD education blog)

Skills development: Rethinking the future (OECD Observer magazine)


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