Back to school


Work hard at school, get a good education and you can get a good job – the familiar mantra of parents the world over. But is it still true at a time of shrinking government budgets and ballooning unemployment figures?  And if so, what kind of education is best?

Education is a cornerstone in building better lives. “The first progress that we need is that all children have the education they deserve so we can build a world with a chance to dream” – so says Javier Elias (24) of Peru in “Progress is: Education for All”, the winning entry in the OECD 50th anniversary video competition.

But how to pay for education at a time of shrinking government budgets and tight family finances?  Is it really worthwhile investing in a university education, or can you still have a good life if you stop after graduating from high school? And what if you do not even get that far? How to ensure that your home-grown students have what it takes to face up to global competition for university places and jobs?

These questions are uppermost in many minds as much of the world prepares to start a new academic year, from families with children entering their first kindergarten class to students leaving home for university.

We do have answers to some of these questions – the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment tells us which countries, whether developed, developing, or emerging economies, provide the best preparation for adult life and work, and it is not always the wealthiest countries that do best.

We also know how many people complete secondary education, and how many go on to university – and that crisis or no crisis, the higher your education level, the better your chances of getting and keeping a job, not to mention higher earnings.


But is the existing education system really giving our young people the tools they need to make a success of adult life? For Albert Einstein it was “a miracle that curiosity survives formal education”.

Are our education systems and their links with the workplace still bogged down in a 20th century vision ill-adapted to the post-crisis 21st century world? Watch this space for the skills and jobs part of the equation in the next OECD Focus.

Further reading on this issue:

Latest OECD work on education:
How does your country’s education system shape up?
Where are the coolest, greenest school buildings?
How important is education in your life? Check out

Previous articles:

Cool, clean water

Greening growth

Food prices



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