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We need to think harder about how we identify the right mix skills that will be needed for strong, sustainable and balanced growth in the 21st century. Today, education and training systems need to prepare learners for more rapid change than ever before, for jobs that have not yet been created, using technologies that have not yet been invented, to solve problems that cannot be foreseen. This requires:

·         new ways of thinking: including creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making;

·         new ways of working: including new forms of collaboration and communication;

·         new tools for working: including the capacity to harness the potential of new technologies.

To deliver on such goals, we need to change the policy focus from “life-long employment” to “life-long employability”, which will require not only “lifelong learning” but also “life-wide learning”.

Challenges faced by education systems

Selection of policy responses needed

Greater responsiveness

Ensure that education and training providers can adapt more efficiently to changing demands

Raise quality and efficiency in learning provision

Ensure that the right skills are acquired at the right time, right place and in the most effective mode

Greater flexibility in provision

Provide people with opportunities to study what they want, when they want and how they want

Improve transferability of skills

Ensure that skills gained are documented in a commonly accepted and understandable form

Improve ease of access

Reduce barriers to entry such as institutional hurdles, up-front fees and age restrictions, providing a variety of entry and re-entry pathways

Reduce the costs of early exit

Grant credit for components of learning, modular provision, credit accumulation and credit transfer systems


Future OECD work on skills for the 21st century will support national policy makers as they grapple with these issues through comparative data and opportunities for structured policy dialogue.

Today one thing is clear, those who know more tend to do better in a knowledge economy.  In this environment, one could also say that “education is the ultimate poverty eradication tool,” for when you know better you tend to do better.  But is that the end of the argument for education?  Is education in and of itself the silver bullet solution?  I do not think so.

In the United States of America, the largest economy in the world still, and arguably one of the most “educated” (one of our most significant imports into the U.S. these days frankly are college students from Asian countries), the high-school dropout rate is 30% for all youth and 40-50% for urban (mostly economically poor) youth.  This is a business an American competitiveness issue.  For if we don’t arrest this troubling trend, quoting my friend Marguerite Kondracke, CEO of America’s Promise Alliance, “the next group of under-performing assets will not be mortgage loans, but our children.”

These statistics don’t seem to make much sense until one suggests that we have lost “the relevancy factor.”  In other words, no adult wants a mortgage or a bond to purchase a home; they want the home itself.  It is aspirational.  No one craves for an auto loan; rather they desire the benefits of the automobile itself.  It is aspirational.  And most kids don’t awake in the morning begging for an education, per se, but rather the benefits that education may bring.  It is aspirational too.

I believe that kids in America, and many other OECD developed countries around the world, are dropping out of school, or not showing up in the first place, because we have failed to make education “relevant” to their futures.  Building on this, I also believe that the way to make education relevant (in a free society), is to show young people how to succeed, prosper, how to do well, and even how to get rich (legally), if that is what they want to do. 
That answer is financial literacy, free enterprise and capitalism, ownership, opportunity and entrepreneurship.  It is about making education relevant, and tying that relevance to hopes, dreams, aspirations, opportunity, and a purpose and passion in and for life.

Recently Operation HOPE and Gallup, Inc. entered into a critically important partnership, launching the new Gallup-HOPE Financial Literacy Index, where we will seek to measure hope, engagement, well being and financial literacy, and its inter-connectedness one to another.  OECD has just recently begun to do important work around “well being,” as has Gallup, and Gallup has already provided through research that “hope is a greater indicator of academic success and graduation rates that GPA (Grade Point Averages) or ACT scores in the U.S.  That’s powerful.  Even more telling, Gallup research found that approximately 50% of all youth were “hopeful” on average.  Well, I believe this ties in directly with a 50% high-school dropout rate amongst urban, low-wealth youth who, I submit, are not (hopeful).  And as I have said in my new book LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), “the most dangerous person in the world is a person without hope.”

In the backdrop of this global economic crisis, I believe education is even more important today, particularly when it comes to empowering the poor and the under-served in developed and developing countries alike, but it also must become more practical to life, and thus again, more “relevant.”  
I believe, in the backdrop of this global economic crisis that financial literacy is the new civil rights issue, the first global silver rights empowerment tool.  For as I have said often of late, “if you don’t understand the language of money, financial literacy, and if you don’t have a bank account, you are just an economic slave.”

And when 70% of the American economy (still the largest in the world, and approximately 30% of the world economy) is driven by the consumer, financial literacy becomes a critical business issue as well.

I applaud OECD for making financial literacy part of its agenda for their annual Forum in Paris, where I am honored to be speaking this year, as I did in 2009.  This said, I would encourage and push OECD to “do more,” expanding the very definition of what it means by financial literacy, to include empowerment.
We must build on financial education, to include financial literacy, and build on financial literacy to include financial capabilities (a term coined by the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of the Treasury Financial Education Office), and from financial capabilities and financial capacity, to include the all important financial empowerment agenda.  Because it is through the door of financial literacy that people will have the dignity to function and to take care of themselves, and protect their families, in this world (basic civil rights and social justice), but it is through the door of financial empowerment that we will actually nurture, inspire and create the next generation of entrepreneurs, small business owners and “self-employment projects,” that the world desperately needs.

Where will the next generation of jobs come from?  The same place that the last generation of jobs came from – you and me, on fire with the power of a new idea, and the skills (through financial empowerment) to make it real.

OECD’s mission of education and financial literacy, and my mission of global silver rights, should both be focused on the same ultimate goal; “to make free enterprise and capitalism finally relevant to the poor, and finally work for the poor.”  This is 21st century education that matters.

I would challenge OECD leadership to consider the following:


  • Encourage OECD member countries to institute financial literacy as a requirement for all learners from elementary to high-school.  Teaching financial literacy (the basic rules of how to operate and to function with dignity in a system of free enterprise and capitalism) should be as essential to a generation as teaching them how to operate an automobile.
  • Encourage OECD member countries to follow the lead of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) in the United States, where she authored HR1325 in Congress, inspired by the work of Operation HOPE, requiring college students with student loans to also get a course in financial literacy. The bill would also require colleges and universities receiving federal funds to require a course in financial literacy.
  • Encourage OECD member countries to give every youth the right to a basic (mainstream) bank account at birth, no different than them having the right to vote at birth.  The 20th century was defined by democracy, but the 21st century will be defined by the economic era.


With hope,


John Hope Bryant

As OECD economies struggle to emerge from the crisis of 2008/09, governments have to wrestle with difficult dilemmas. On the one hand, they face increasing pressure to wind back the large deficits they ran up to bail out the financial sector and restart economies. We see the nature of those pressures most dramatically in the current run on the Euro, which governments are trying to stem with new packages entailing dramatic budgets cuts in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. On the other hand, they must know that dramatic cutting of public sector budgets threatens recovery. The risk of a “double-dip” crisis has become real.


We see the dilemma reflected in the OECD Ministerial meeting agenda this week “Fiscal Consolidation and Employment”. And the OECD Forum debate “How to avoid a jobless recovery”. Framing the debate in economic terms is to be expected at the OECD, or at institutions like the IMF. But there is another dimension to the debate – and the policy dilemmas facing governments – that has not been given enough attention.


Funding of public services is not just about “pump-priming” to restart economies, with the implication that the tap can be turned off once the economy gets going again. Public services are essential to the very fabric of democratic societies. The public sector provides essential services for citizens – education, health, water and sanitation, transport, communications, public safety, emergency and fire services, local community services … Sure, there has been a three decades-long movement to hand over many of these essential services to the private sector, and that movement continues. But herein lie questions of equity, justice and values which are fundamental to democratic societies.


Saving the financial sector from meltdown has already resulted in a massive transfer of public resources to private interests. Now those same private interests are mounting a formidable assault on public finances that are needed to maintain services essential to citizens in democracies.


Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti, of Italy, chairing this year’s Ministerial Council and OECD Forum, stated again today that fundamental change is underway – and proceeding at a rate probably unprecedented in human history. Over two recent weekends, he met with other EU Finance Ministers to get announcements out before the markets opened on the Monday. Then market actors said it wasn’t enough anyway. In other words, governments no longer control the situation. Fundamental rethinking is required. A new paradigm for equitable and sustainable growth is required. And that can only be achieved by breaking out from the mental straight jacket of “business as usual”. And by engaging citizens through organized civil society, and working families, through the organized labour movement.


Bob Harris
Senior Consultant, Education International
Chair, TUAC Working Group on Education, Training & Employment

Blog Funding Education: Crisis Watch

The World Cup provides education opportunities around the world

When in doubt, talk sports. Over a lull in dinner conversation last night someone mentioned the recent English win over Australia, making England the world champions in speed cricket. As someone who doesn’t know the first thing about the game, I learned quite a bit – how the long games normally are (too long) and the rules of cricket (too complicated). By the end of dinner, I learned just as much about the sport as I did about the team’s countries and cultures as well.

As the World Cup South Africa approaches, many countries and schools are taking advantage of the football fever among their students, and officially incorporating football into the curriculum. In Argentina, educators hope football curriculum will spark children’s interest in learning more about the history and politics of South Africa. An initiative called GOAL 1 is using footballers’ fame to draw attention to efforts to promote education for all children.

In South Africa, a “Football for Hope” festival, a partnership with FIFA, will invite 32 teams from disadvantaged communities from around the world to South Africa to show how football is linked with development. After a recent trip to South Africa, OECD analyst Fabrice Henard, remarks on progress: “Football brings communities together around shared goals: playing and winning with respect. Teams can reduce social differences between communities and help create positive cross-cultural attitudes.”

Regardless of whether you’re an England or Brazil fan (or don’t know the first thing about sports), it is clear that sports can be a powerful tool to bring students together to learn. We hope that education efforts leading up to the World Cup South Africa will demonstrate how linking football and education can be a win-win game.

Read what the OECD has to say about the South African education system.


Hungary to learn!

Posted by Lynda HAWE May 12, 2010


I was surprised to learn that Hungary is not effectively producing enough higher qualified people and that expected growth rates for the coming years are lower than what they need.  So I think a proposal to increase Lifelong learning seems to make very good sense.




  • Lifelong learning provides alternative routes and second chances..
  • Innovating learning will be critical for the construction of the knowledge-intensive and innovative post-crisis economy
  • Lifelong learning is not (only) about the participation of adults, but about redesigning the learning patterns of learners in a different way
  • Lifelong learning is not only about beautiful principles, values and rhetoric
    – So, let’s look at realities, evidence and data…..
    Growth in university-level qualifications.ppsx




Watch this presentation given by Dirk Van Damme Innovating Higher Education-Hungary 29 April 2009.pdf




So,  the overall message is that stronger lifelong learning policies and practices in higher education can help to improve and strengthen its economic effectiveness, its social role and its impact on value change in a modernising society. Well, at least there is a solution and that is always good news.


Read more: education wikicrisis: Hungary



Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI):

Recently, I overheard a group of OECD interns chatting about their first jobs. One student recounts the lessons learned by managing the front desk of a salon, “never underestimate the importance of a haircut!” while another vowed never to work in retail again after his experience in a clothing store. But after looking at the projections of  the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, on job openings from 2008-2018, many of these students might wonder if their next job will be much different than the first. The Bureau projects that there will be more than 1.7 million jobs to be filled for cashiers over the ten year period, taking into account new jobs and replacing those  leaving the labour force -- more than for any other single occupation.



The life of a cashier can most certainly be interesting. The now-famous blogger in France “la cassière” (the cashier) has published “Tribulations of a Cashier”, in 21 languages. Unfortunately, not all cashiers and unskilled workers can expect to achieve this level of financial success. As the global economy emerges from the shadow of the crisis, governments need to take a serious look at how to provide the training needed to prepare the workforce for an changing economy. A well-skilled workforce is one of the main paths for a country’s for prosperity and growth.  As our economies evolve after the crisis, new jobs will emerge. According to the Bureau, in the United States occupations that usually require a postsecondary qualification are expected to generate nearly half of all new jobs from 2008 to 2018. In Europe, more knowledge - and skills-based jobs are becoming available according to a CEDEFOP analysis .


Nevertheless, there is a real concern that there are not enough skilled workers to fill these positions. Vocational education is necessary to help fill the gap between needed skills and jobs in expanding fields such as health care, technology, as well as traditional trades like electricians and plumbers. But if economies want to “cash in” on the growth opportunities posed by these industries, they must be willing to invest in the teachers, training, and policy needed to meet the labour market needs.


How do countries’ vocational training programs differ? Read more to find out.

OECD report examines policies that to help provide better opportunities and outcomes for migrant students

Successful integration of immigrants in OECD societies is not only a matter of providing equal opportunities to all residents, it is also a social and economic necessity. Learning the host country language is clearly essential but it is not enough. In a time of economic crisis, providing migrant children with quality educational opportunities so that they can succeed in realising their full potential is vital for social cohesion and overall economic growth.



But how do governments justify spending time on resources on migrant children when their overall education system is under pressure? Many policy recommendations released by the latest OECD report on migrant education provide some tools on how to improve education for migrants without additional funding.



The disconnect between school and home worlds is often is a
barrier to a child’s academic success. For a child who speaks a different language at home and at school, increased parental and community involvement can help bridge the gap between school and home life. At a different level, being able to track, use, and evaluate data in schools can vastly improve the efficiency of resources spent on migrant education programs. These are but a few examples provided.



What explains the gap (or lack thereof) among immigrant and native students? Read the latest report to find out.

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