The activities of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2008-2009
| Doc. 12042
| 29 September 2009
- (Former) Committee on Culture, Science and Education
- Rapporteur :
- Mr Jan KAŹMIERCZAK,
- See Doc. 11985 prov. Tabled by the Committee on Economic Affairs and
Development. 2009 - Fourth part-session
1. The annual report on “The activities
of the OECD in 2008-2009”, prepared by the Committee on Economic
Affairs and Development, focuses on the activities of the OECD in
the economic field. There is no doubt, however, that the activities
of this Organisation cover a much wider area than the purely economic
2. The Committee on Culture, Science and Education is contributing
the above-mentioned report by dealing with the activities of that
organisation in the fields of education and science.
3. The contribution to the report from the Committee on Culture,
Science and Education is based mainly on the Hearing and exchange
of views which it held with OECD representatives during the committee
meeting on 11 May 2009 in Paris. The OECD was represented by Mr Bernard
Hugonnier, Deputy-Director for Education, Directorate for Education,
and Mr Ian Gillespie, Head of Science and Technology Policy, Directorate
for Science, Technology and Industry. Some sections of the report
also draw on material published by the OECD.
OECD activities in the field
of education in the wider sense are mainly of a rather general nature, producing
statistics and indicators on knowledge and competences, member states’
policy reviews, thematic reviews and forecasts of future developments.
These activities focus on the following fields:
- Early childhood education and
- The period of compulsory education (regarded as central
to all education systems);
- Higher education;
- Adult education and training;
- Lifelong learning;
- Specific problems in the area of education (such as problems
of equity and equality of opportunity).
5. The key findings and conclusions, as well as policy orientation,
in the above-mentioned fields are presented in more detail in OECD
publications such as “Education Today: the OECD perspective” (OECD 2009).
6. The OECD states that early childhood care – nursery and pre-primary
childcare– is a growing priority in many countries. This priority
is mainly reflected in an increasing demand from parents, and is
also a part of a range of educational services which are increasingly
recognised as a major contribution to a multitude of social, economic
and educational goals. A major OECD review in this field was published
in 2006. Its main policy thrusts were geared to overcoming the underdevelopment
which prevails in many countries in this sector.
7. The OECD takes the period of compulsory education, i.e. primary,
lower secondary, and even the upper secondary cycle in some countries,
as being the core of all educational systems. In recent years, significant investments
have been made in this segment of the education system, which is
deemed vital for laying the foundation for so many other subsequent
social, economic and educational outcomes.
8. The OECD concentrates on teachers as a key factor in the success
of schooling. The OECD published a major paper entitled “Teachers
Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers”
in 2005. Policy orientations have stressed the need to simultaneously
modernise, professionalise and innovate, while at the same time
placing reforms geared to effective learning at the heart of schooling.
9. OECD analyses have shed extensive light on the issues, arrangements
and policies surrounding the transition beyond compulsory schooling.
Studies on guidance, information systems and qualifications in OECD member
countries have shown that there is great scope for improving transitions.
The OECD has highlighted the need to improve the existence, relevance
and transparency of different ways forward, while protecting those
who are left behind as their peers go on to further education and
10. Higher education is being restructured throughout OECD countries
and in particular in Europe, where the Bologna Process aims at a
European Higher Education Area. This will have consequences on the
mobility of students and teachers and on the quality of education.
There are visible trends across the OECD, such as the growing international
tertiary education market and more highly formalised quality assurance.
The organisation has prepared a major review of tertiary education
entitled “Guidelines for Quality of Quality Provision in Cross-Border
Higher Education”, and two new initiatives may be mentioned: the
Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) which explores
the feasibility of comparing student outcomes in higher education;
and the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies
(PIAAC) which aims to assess the supply and demand of competencies
that impact on social and economic outcomes at the individual and
11. OECD studies state that, in addition to the aforementioned
area, adult participation in education and training should also
be a focus of statistical work and programme and policy analysis.
The data show how, for many countries, participation in formal education
remains the exception for older adults. The OECD has conducted international
reviews – the most recent published in 2005 – combining the educational
and employment perspectives and studies of the provision of and
policy on adult learning, with complementary studies on qualifications,
ageing, and financing.
12. The OECD’s policy in the higher education field has included
accepting that students should contribute to the cost of their studies
(backed with appropriate safeguards). It has also mentioned the
need to develop e-learning and guidance systems, as well as to reinforce
the regional and innovative role of institute of higher education.
13. For many years now, lifelong learning has been a defining
goal of education and training policies. Despite acknowledging its
importance, holistic analyses of lifelong learning have featured
less in the OECD’s work in recent years. Similarly, the comparative
analytical approach adopted has shown that the implementation of
this broad aim in different countries is inconsistent and, often,
14. The work of the OECD is a rich source of information on educational
outcomes. The best-recognised programme, namely the triennial PISA
achievement survey, has been successfully running for 15 years now. This
survey focuses on the educational achievements of 15-year-olds in
different areas of competency, together with a growing range of
associated background information, and is conducted in many non-OECD member
countries, in addition to its member states.
15. The strong OECD focus on outcomes is set to expand beyond
teenage achievements in a survey of adult competencies, more closely
examining results at the higher education level. In its latest programme,
the OECD is also going to investigate adult educational competency.
The first results of this programme are expected to be published
16. Analyses of developments and policies that influence equity
have been an underlying priority in much of the OECD educational
work. Inequality patterns have been highlighted, thanks to the improved
quality of international data, which is facilitating analyses vis-à-vis
many relevant groups of learners and their educational experiences.
The OECD analysis has shown that there need be no contradiction
between equity and efficiency, and that the phenomenon of exclusion
and widespread underachievement is detrimental to both economic
and social objectives. OECD publications have charted the opportunities,
outcomes and policies towards different population groups, many
of whom are disadvantaged, across many educational and training
sectors, including long-term work on special educational needs.
17. Broadly speaking, according to various OECD publications,
recognition of the key role of research and knowledge management
in educational practice and policy-making is a recent development.
Many countries have been underequipped for developing and exploiting
the necessary knowledge base for improving practice and making policies
more effective. Generally, the volume of relevant educational research
and development tends to be low, despite the fact that education
so explicitly concerns knowledge. Similarly, a great deal of the change
that occurs in education still stems from short-term considerations,
despite the fundamental long-term mission and nature of this sector.
Educational research and development systems, knowledge management, forward
thinking, and evidence-based policy and practice are all prominent
aspects of the OECD’s work, which is performed primarily through
the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation.
Conclusions with respect to education
18. As OECD statistics show, constant
increases in educational expenditure in OECD member countries have
not produced better educational results. Educational efficiency
in all member states is highly variable, and therefore, education
authorities in every country should look into the available means
of reducing the current inefficiency. As shown in a recent report,
issued in June 2009, lack of inventiveness on the part of teachers
and bad behaviour in the classrooms are the core reasons for educational
19. Tertiary educational policy is gaining in importance on the
national agendas. The widespread recognition that tertiary education
is a major driving force for economic competitiveness in an increasingly
knowledge-driven global economy has made high-quality tertiary education
more important than ever before. The imperative for countries is
to raise the level of employment skills, sustain a globally competitive
research base and improve knowledge dissemination for the benefit
of society. Publication of a comparative study will enable member
countries to gauge themselves against the other countries’ performance.
20. Equity in education is still not common practice. As the OECD’s
PISA assessment shows, the expansion of education systems has not
enabled all young people to reach their full potential, and in some
cases not even to acquire basic skills. Educational results are
strongly influenced by social background. This is why fostering equity
in education is one of the OECD’s key objectives. A number of publications
and conferences last year pointed out that the problem should be
tackled on three fronts: the design of education systems, educational practices,
21. Science and technology policy,
as well as a general background of an operational research and development
sector, is very high on the OECD’s agenda. For the OECD, science
policy means looking at how to boost science and report on scientific
work. The OECD also analyses the impact and role of science, for instance
on human genetic research, global warming, food safety and other
global challenges. Science is seen as a cross-sectoral and cross-departmental
22. The OECD representatives at the meeting of the Committee on
Culture, Science and Education in Paris made clear that the current
activities of the organisation in the field of widespread science
are concentrating on innovation as the key factor for the economic
and social development of individual countries and societies. It
emerged from the discussions that innovation is central to economic
performance and social welfare.
23. In view of the above-mentioned circumstances, the OECD has
developed an “Innovation Strategy”, which might be described as
an innovative policy/action agenda. The organisation publishes reports
on the results of current analyses of the OECD Innovation Strategy.
There are also more specialised contributions such as: “Innovation
and Growth: Rationale for an Innovation Strategy” or “Policy Responses
to the Economic Crisis: investing in Innovation for Long-Term Growth”.
24. Today, as the crisis continues to unfold around the globe,
the development of the OECD Innovation Strategy has taken on even
greater relevance and urgency. Innovation will be one of the keys
to emerging from the downturn and putting countries back on the
path to sustainable – and more intelligent – growth. Yet the crisis
itself poses a number of serious risks and challenges to innovation
performance which it will be necessary to counter. The stakes are
high, and there is no option but to get the policies right. As governments
undertake exceptional economic stimulus, their temporary interventions
in the market provide a unique opportunity to maximise the impacts
of public policy in fostering innovation and steering market actors
towards innovation-related investments, and accelerating activities
for which barriers may have been too high otherwise. If this opportunity
is handled effectively, countries could be reaping the benefits
for decades to come.
25. There is an emerging view that the global economy may be at
a turning point, leading to a shift in paradigm. This is indeed
an era of transition. The current crisis is the latest in a series
of important phenomena which continue to transform modes of production
and consumption and drive the search for new and more sustainable
routes to value creation. Over the past decade, globalisation and
the emergence of new and diverse players have continued to accelerate,
opening up new markets and opportunities, but also requiring new
strategies in order to benefit and to stay competitive. One result
has been a change in the geography of innovation, with a less defined
and more complex division of labour across cities, regions and countries.
This has also been driven by changing demographics throughout the
world. In OECD countries, dealing with an ageing workforce calls
for new responses, be they through restructuring, migration, upgrading
of skills or outsourcing.
26. OECD member states which are also European Union members ensure
common standards and objectives in these areas (e.g. the Lisbon
Strategy). However, some non-OECD countries such as China and India
have become major platforms for scientific discovery and innovation.
To keep up the pace OECD must hone its analysis on the areas of
science and innovation. Whereas the OECD is not able to develop
innovation strategy for all its member countries, it does provide
country-specific advice on innovation. By the end of 2008, Reviews
of Innovation Policy for Switzerland, Luxemburg, New Zealand, South
Africa and Chile had been completed and several others are under
27. Across the OECD and beyond, society is playing a much more
significant role in innovation than in the past. This also has some
far-reaching implications for governance, and policy makers who
are in many cases still trying to work out how best to “democratise”
science and innovation and its subsequent use. Governance arrangements
must take account of societal values in order to gain acceptance
for many products of innovation. The increasing number and diversity
of participants, and the globalisation of innovation networks, also
calls for governance mechanisms that can cross boundaries as innovation
policy spreads across an array of ministries, a range of public
and private actors and geographically from local to regional to
28. Innovation often occurs when entrepreneurs explore new markets,
ideas and opportunities. Entrepreneurs are also key in generating
competitive pressures on incumbents, forcing them to innovate. Policy
can foster entrepreneurship by facilitating the entry, exit and
growth of firms, for example in lowering administrative and regulatory
barriers, improving bankruptcy regimes and easing access to finance.
29. During the meeting in Paris, the representative of the OECD
said that, at the moment, the organisation is not involved in studies
concerning the support of entrepreneurial behaviour treated as a
factor of increasing the knowledge-based model of economy. It was
stated by members of the Committee during the discussion, that –
especially in countries with more centralised economies – all activities
geared to improving entrepreneurial thinking and behaviour, especially
in the younger generations, could be important and effective factors
for both economic and social growth. Moreover, other worldwide organisations
(see for example the report “Educating the Next Wave of Entrepreneurs”
by the World Economic Forum, Switzerland, April 2009) are aware
of this problem.
Conclusions with respect to science/research and
30. As OECD reports show, innovation
is both a necessity and a chance for countries and societies in
this time of global economic crisis. National policies, as well
as practical forms of supporting scientific/R&D activities should
concentrate on actions leading to knowledge-based economy.
31. Entrepreneurial thinking and the behaviour of individuals
could be a key factor to improving innovation level in national
economies. Therefore, national policies, including educational policy,
should include tools for supporting this kind of behaviour in society.
32. The Committee on Culture, Science
and Education regards the annual debate with the participation of the
Secretary General of the OECD as well as working meetings with OECD
representatives as a worthwhile exercise that should be continued.
B. Proposed amendments
The committee proposes that the following paragraphs be added
to the draft resolution:
enlarged Assembly welcomes the organisation of a meeting with the
Governing Board of the Programme for International Student Assessment
(PISA) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD) and the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement
(IEA) in order to explore the pedagogical and ideological grounds
of their work and examine the possibility of expanding the scope
of their assessment to include civic awareness, creative skills
and cultural education.
- The enlarged Assembly again encourages the OECD to pursue
its studies on the efficiency of teaching and learning processes
in order to formulate proposals to reverse the existing trend of
increased educational expenditure with no improvement in educational
results. Improving the efficiency of learning processes is essential
in order to tackle the current insufficiency in adult competencies
and to ensure the sustainability of adequate lifelong learning and
continuing education systems.
- The enlarged Assembly encourages the OECD to consider
looking into entrepreneurial thinking and behaviour treated as a
factor of increasing the knowledge-based model of economy as – in
particular in countries with more centralised economies – all activities
geared to improving entrepreneurial thinking and behaviour, especially
in the younger generations, could be important and effective factors
for both economic and social growth.”
* * *
Committee on Economic Affairs and Development (Doc. 11985)
Committee for contribution:
Committee on Culture, Science and Education
Reference to Committee: Standing mandate
by the committee on 28 September 2009
Secretariat of the committee:
Mr Ary, Mr Dossow and Mr Fuchs