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.