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Andreas Schleicher is the Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  He[…]

Andreas Schleicher, the Acting Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), on how education can help students meet the challenges of today.

Andreas Schleicher: There is a rapid rise in the demand for new skills.  In fact, we see that at the individual levels and we see this at aggregate levels.  There’s a growing gap between employment and labor market prospects of people who are highly skilled and people at the low end of the skill spectrum. Skills determine more and more how the benefits of economic growth are shared in societies.  The success of companies today depends on nothing more than on the talent pool which they recruit.  Seventy percent of productivity gains have been driven by improvements in the skill base.  So there is a dramatically rising demand for better skilled people.

At the very same time we also see that in some countries there are many graduates unemployed on the street, while employers say they cannot find the people with the skills they need.  So there is an emerging mismatch between the kind of talent that is being developed and the talent that is really needed.  In fact, one of the things that our data shows is that some of the skills that are easiest to teach and easiest to test are also the kind of skills that are easiest to digitize, automate, and outsource.  So that’s a big challenge for the education industry today to think about "What are the kind of twenty-first century skills that will enable people?" 

In the past you could assume, as a teacher, you would teach someone for their lifetime what you learn is school is going to last for many, many years.  Today that’s no longer the case.  Today we need to educate people for jobs that have not been created, to use technologies that haven’t been invented, to solve social and economic problems that we don’t have any idea are gonna arise.  This is  the fundamental challenge for education. And that requires a very different caliber of teachers.  Teachers who are not just reproducing  educating the reproduction of subject matter content but to help young people to extrapolate from what they know, to use and apply their knowledge in novel situations.  In a nutshell, the world economy no longer pays you for what you know.  Google knows everything.  

The world economy pays you for what you can do with what you know and that requires a very different caliber of teachers and a very different pedagogy – twenty-first century pedagogy – a very different relationship between teachers and students.  Technology is part of this.  Today it’s hard to explain why you should accept the teacher next door if you can’t have access to the world’s best knowledge anywhere.  We’re seeing an unbundling of educational content, educational delivery and accreditation with people anywhere drawing on the world’s best knowledge at any time.

We are seeing governments putting greater emphasis on evaluating outcomes, on quality assurance, on setting standards.  And the business sector actually being a lot more engaged in helping educational systems figure out where is labor demand evolving.  What are the kind of skills that will be at a premium tomorrow. The business sector is playing a very important role as an education provider, engaging actively in the design and delivery of instructional systems, providing educational and learning opportunities for people in many, many contexts.  At least we’re seeing this in some countries.  In others it’s still a big challenge.