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Perhaps one of the silver linings of the volcano ash cloud that has paralyzed Europe and many parts of the world is the addition of new phrases to our vocabulary. On the Sciences Po Paris campus several students discussed their travel plans for spring break (which started this week in France): “I was going to go home for the break, but it looks like I’ll be ‘ash’ed in’” said one international affairs student who had hoped to travel to Morocco to visit family. “I’ve been ‘volcano’ed’” says another who had hoped to fly back to the States over the weekend. An English student commented on her own country’s ingenuity: “They’re sending boats!”


Neologisms aside, the newest natural disaster has disrupted the lives of many students and teachers and has demonstrated just how global education has become. In England, one teacher was reported[1] to drive to Germany to pick up five teachers on a school visit to Lithuania. In Spain, professors are using web cameras to communicate with students preparing for an A-Level business classes. 100s of students from the UK on a government-funded program are stuck in Beijing and are unsure what will happen when their visas expire[2].

Those who have been lucky enough to stay on ground, however, have used this unique volcanic activity as an opportunity to teach students about geothermic activity and atmosphere layers. But while students of finance might wonder if the latest volcanic eruption is revenge on Iceland’s lax credit policy that exacerbated the economic crisis, the economic consequences of the volcano are very real. It is still too early to say to what extent the volcano has affected education, but when the dust (or ash) settles, governments must access the disruption of the eruption (puns abound!) and hope that the current volcanic crisis does not hurt an already struggling education sector.


[1]  BBC News, Exam change for stranded pupils, 20 April 2010

[2]  BBC News, Don't penalise teachers stranded by ash, union urges, 18 April 2010


Pumping technology into schools is not enough!


Kids from top socioeconomic bracket know how to use these tools for learning, playing and collaborating. For kids from poor families, it’s just another screen!


The first digital divide has faded in schools but a second one is emerging. In nearly every OECD country, all students attend schools equipped with computers, 88% of which are connected to the Internet.  However, there is still a digital gap related to home access. In the light of the results of this study, it can be concluded that the importance of the digital divide in education goes beyond the issue of access to technology.


A second form of digital divide has been identified between those who have the necessary competences and skills to benefit from computer use and those who do not. These competences and skills are closely linked to students’ economic, cultural and social capital. Read more





Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI):



Unknown Knowns

Posted by Cassandra Davis Apr 14, 2010

The Value of Recognizing Informal Learning

Transcripts, diplomas, certificates and other qualifications. Most of us are familiar with the official documents used to record our education and formal learning. Proof of what we can do  from legitimate sources is an important way to communicate aptitude, skills sets, and value to potential employers.


But what about the skills that people have but without  an elegant piece of paper? Skills picked up over years of experience or when people decide to teach themselves new skills without enrolling in a course or a programme. This can include learning a new software or technology at home. It can even include becoming familiar with social media communications or mastering the art of blog writing.


Andreas Schleicher mentions in his blog that skills seem to have become the ‘’Holy Grail’’ of modern education policy. Nevertheless, many people have found ways to upgrade their professional and vocational skills without formal training. But how do we measure these skills?


Policy makers in OECD countries have become increasingly aware that recognizing informal learning is an important way to make the most of economic potential – both at the individual level and for the overall economy. In the just published, Recognizing Non-Formal and Informal Learning: Outcomes, Policies and Practices, researchers provide recommendations  on how to recognize informal learning in ways that provide valid and credible assessments of skills.  By granting greater visibility and therefore potential value to learning outcomes, individuals, employers and policy makers will be better able to match skills to jobs. This is especially important in a time of economic crisis. When unemployed and displaced workers’ skills have been clearly identified, they can more easily be placed in other parts of the labour market.


By identifying and acknowledging skills and learning obtained through less official avenues, policy makers, employers, and individuals can turn the unknown knowns into known knowns, and put them to good use.

The importance of educating educators in diverse classrooms

“I believe content on multicultural diversity should be taught regularly within the context of other subjects and skills; therefore I will incorporate information from African, Asian, European, Latino and Native American cultures and experiences (at the same time and for all students) as I teach word recognition, vocabulary, comprehension and interpretation in reading.”


This personal pedagogical creed is one of the surprising suggested methods for teachers needing to develop more positive beliefs about and behaviours toward diversity in a new report by the OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), Educating Teachers for Diversity: Meeting the Challenge.

The current economic crisis has deepened the growing inequality of access to education by those who need it most. Teachers are challenged to help migrants and immigrants in OECD countries who are impacted by the crisis. Now, more than ever, there is a strong need for effective teaching practices that are adapted to diverse children from migrant and immigrant families.


The problem, however, is that often teachers do not have the training needed to address the specific needs of a multicultural classroom. With education budgets being slashed, teachers have more students and less time to address individual needs.

In the coming months, the OECD intends to release a teacher’s “toolkit” as a guide for teachers on how to teach in diverse classrooms. While this will be a valuable tool, a toolkit is not enough. It is time for policymakers to address the issue of training teachers for diversity. We no longer live in a monocultural society, and we must adapt our education systems to fit the needs of a globalized world.


Read more:OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI)

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