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If you’re interested or worked in education, (especially international education), you know that definitions of education levels often resemble definitions of art history periods. Secondary, tertiary, and post-secondary education sound a lot like pre-modern, modern, post-modern. There are so many “pres” and “posts” that it’s easy to lose track.

Korea, like all countries, is searching for better ways to develop high-level vocational, technical and professional skills needed in modern economies. Education beyond secondary school level is organized in different ways in different countries and a first challenge for education researchers and OECD analysts is getting the definitions sorted out.

So what is post-secondary VET anyway? At least we mostly know it when we see it. It includes programmes such as nursing and other health fields, engineering, business, etc., and it could be delivered in different institutions – polytechnics in Finland, community colleges in the United States, TAFEs in Australia, IUT in France or in regular universities.

Across many countries, the range of courses and programmes in post-secondary VET education has expanded dramatically over the past two decades – diversity, complexity and rapid change are becoming the norm.

An OECD-KRIVET* Seminar just last week brought together leading education researchers, policy advisors and OECD analysts to discuss some of the common policy challenges across countries, tackling questions such as:

  • What economic and social factors will drive demand for VET skills in coming years?
  • What are the challenges of a highly diversified post-secondary education market?
  • How can governments steer post-secondary VET systems?
  • What labour market features foster the development of high-level vocational skills?


The seminar also discussed the particular challenges facing Korea, where around 4 out of 5 high school graduates now go on tertiary education, but many later find themselves in jobs that don’t require tertiary level skills. The rapid expansion of tertiary education in Korea has led some Korean commentators to suggest it’s time to reconsider. Questions discussed included:  

  • Does Korea face a skills gap or skills-mismatch? What skills does it most need?
  • Why has Korea apparently over-invested in academic education and under-invested in post-secondary VET?
  • What policy levers could be used to shift towards the skills Korea needs? 


The seminar couldn’t come up with any definitive answers in an afternoon. But it was an important input into the OECD’s new thematic review on post-secondary VET, Skills beyond School and is part of a new collaboration between KRIVET and the OECD on post-secondary VET* in Korea and the OECD.
The project will help education leaders in Korea and across OECD countries better define their policy needs and goals for post-secondary education. Because skills and education are too important to get lost in translation...


*Speaking of definitions, KRIVET stands for the “Korean Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training” and VET stands for “Vocational Education and Training.”


See also:

We’ve all faced days when we’ve wanted to quit our jobs (if we are lucky enough to have them). The reasons can be social, professional, or even systemic – a bad interaction with a colleague, a poor performance review, or even a poorly run organization. For most of us, however, we have developed mechanisms for dealing with the stress and understand the consequences are too great to simply quit.


But while we generally have a sense of why adults might leave a job, identifying the reasons for children and teenagers leaving school is an enormous challenge. As new OECD working paper, “Taking on the Completion Challenge” shows, however, it couldn’t be more important. Kids who don’t complete school across OECD countries earn less and have higher unemployment rates than those who complete. If you’ve been paying attention to OECD research, you know that less education not only affects an individual’s earning potential, but also can affect how happy, healthy, and connected to society they are (see the OECD study on the Reinforcing the social benefits of education).


The million-dollar (€730,000 Euro) question is: how do we help kids complete?


The paper presents a set of practical solutions to prevent early school leaving according to education level. A quick scan around the education world also shows that innovative efforts have cropped up around the world to prevent kids from leaving school. helps connect mentors to children and allows people to send encouraging messages via email or text.  Recently, the EU elearning papers published a report on how to use ICT and electronic music to help reduce school dropouts in Europe.


One of the main findings of the OECD paper is that measures implemented earlier in a child’s education can be more broadly targeted, while efforts in the later years of education must be more personalized. Not surprisingly, early identification of children at risk for leaving school makes addressing the problem easier, cheaper, and more effective.


If you weren’t already convinced, high investments in dropout prevention result in higher tax revenues and less public spending on health, public assistance, and criminal justice.


Most importantly, helping children complete school is an achievement which will give kids the best chance to find jobs, (even jobs to complain about), in their long-term future.


To read the working paper “Taking on the Completion Challenge: A Literature Review on Policies to Prevent Dropout and Early School Leaving” go here . This paper is part of the OECD project, overcoming school failure: policies that work, in which 8 countries are exploring different approaches to overcome school failure.


For more information on the project, please visit the site:

Whenever discussing policy issues, it never hurts to pepper your arguments with facts. If you think climate change will affect the world’s oceans, quote the scientists about sea levels in Bangladesh. Wherever you stand on the French pension reform issue, the strongest protests won’t change the pension liabilities numbers. If you’re an ipad partisan or prefer the Kindle, there are usually data points behind the preference (the ipad has apps, the Kindle was the original).


While facts and data can’t tell us everything, they can tell us a lot. Similarly, we think getting educated about education in OECD countries is one of the most powerful ways for policymakers, teachers, parents, administrators, and students to promote reform and education advancement around the world.


Here’s another fact: the OECD Education Directorate publishes more than 50 titles and 20 papers each year (to access these publications, see the OECD’s ilibrary). These policy analyses are among the most authoritative in the world. So how do we keep up? The answer is Education Today.


The new and improved version of Education Today provides quick snap shots of OECD messages and includes country comparisons on the impacts of:


Cover education today.jpg
  • Returns on education (our version of the corporate ROE)
  • Education access and equity
  • Educational innovation
  • Vocational training and adult education
  • Higher and early education
  • And much much more.





So the next time you’re at a policy conference (or even a cocktail hour), you’ll be prepared to say: “Did you know [insert your OECD Today fact here]” without having read several thousands of pages of the OECD Education volumes.


In a fast paced world where no one has time to sift through information, the OECD Education Directorate is like a convenience store for high quality research on education.


Because who doesn’t appreciate one-stop shopping?


If you’re interested in learning more about OECD Education publications, all information is available on the OECD’s ilibrary.

A little bit utopian

Posted by 597974 Nov 3, 2010

“When the untapped potential of a child meets the creative imagination of a teacher, a miracle occurs.” - Mary Hatwood Futrell, Founding President of Education International


The vocation of teaching is, or ought to be, one of constant renewal. “New thinking, new approaches” is the title for the session in which I'll be speaking at the OECD Education Ministers' Forum tomorrow. Actually, this title sounds more like a slogan. When political decision-makers call for “new thinking, new approaches”, they often mean looking for ways of saving money. But the real challenge is to bring about fresh approaches where they count most - in the classroom. And the challenge for policy makers is to create the conditions enabling that to happen.


Over-emphasis on narrow “metrics” won't do it. There are things in education you can't measure. Policies like linking teachers' pay to student performance won't do it either. Such approaches are inherently reductionist. They overlook something essential about education: the miracle of opening young minds to knowledge, to their own capacities, to creativity, to motivation.


Jacques Delors proposed 10 years ago in a report for UNESCO on Education for the 21st century, four “pillars of learning”. Learning “to know”. Learning “to do” (skills). Learning “to be” (realizing one's potential). And learning “to live with others”. Good teachers build on these four pillars to foster a complete learning experience for their pupils.  Their reward actually comes from seeing those miracles come about, day after day, year after year. It doesn't come from performance-related pay.


Sounds a little bit utopian? Maybe. Delors called education “the necessary utopia”. And that's really what motivates many, many teachers. That little bit of utopia is what keeps them going.



Bob Harris is Senior Consultant for Education International and chairs the TUAC Working Group on Education, Training and Employment Policy.

As student, it is essential to be able to have the opportunity to develop a positive and respectful student-teacher relationship because this enables us to collaborate and have educational debates with our teachers without the fear of being put-down or chastised for our personal opinions. There needs to be opportunities for creativity; however, structure is also required in order to promote a healthy respect for authority and societal rules and regulations.


Support and understanding from teachers for students promotes a positive school environment where students are able to strive to perform at their personal best. There also needs to be ample opportunities for students to be able to access their teachers for assistance regarding schoolwork so the students are able to reach academic expectations. Teachers should be role models by supporting life-long learning through accepting new methods of teaching, which include but are not limited to technological advances in this area.   In addition, teachers should be willing to continue their quest to discover and use innovative teaching techniques and current events. Variation within teaching is a way for teachers to allow for students’ distinctive learning styles to be met and for students to experience different facets of learning. Through variation, students are trained to adapt to many teaching styles to prepare them for their academic future.


When a student takes ownership for their own learning, the student no longer only memorizes the required curriculum material but he/she assimilates the information for use in the future and it is the skills that the student gained on how to obtain the information on their own that will ultimately benefit them.  By having students discuss and share with each other, complete dependence on teachers can be alleviated so that students can grow as individuals with their own opinions and views on life.


For a young mind to be able to grow, it requires support by all members of the community in order that the willingness to learn and develop as an individual never fades. A student’s connection with their community assists them to feel needed and fosters a tight knit school community.  Opportunities to join clubs and teams that are specific to their needs and skills make school a place where students feel they want to be and where they can belong. This also enables students to learn and develop skills that they may not have the opportunity to acquire in a classroom.  This may also prepare them, just as classroom work does, for challenges they may meet in the future.


Teachers need the support of government to be flexible in their approach to learning.  By sustaining this type of environment for students and teachers, I believe the student, the teacher, the community, and ultimately the nation will benefit from this type of learning.


Holly Strang

High School student and member of the Government of Alberta's Student Advisory Council to the Minister of Education, Canada


Holly is a panellist speaker at the OECD Education Policy Forum: Investing in skills for the 21st Century, on 4 November 2010

Tune in to live webstreaming at the following URL.

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