The Role and Priority of Education in the New Era


Ministers, colleagues

It’s a great pleasure to be with you today.  I want to thank Minister Hase for his invitation to this beautiful place.

Education systems in the 21st century are facing unprecedented challenges.  Globalisation brings innovation, new experiences and higher living standards. But it equally contributes to economic inequality and social division. 

Students in the 21st century need to be ready for a highly interconnected, diverse and rapidly changing world, where they experience intercultural encounters on a daily basis.

They also need to be ready to act and jointly tackle systemic, global challenges and put the world in a more socially and environmentally friendly path. So the key question is how to better equip the new generations to act creatively, collaboratively and ethically.

  Is there a distinctive competence that equips young people for the culturally diverse and digitally-connected communities in which they work and socialise?  And if there is, how should it be developed?  Can students learn to mobilise knowledge, cognitive and creative skills, and values and attitudes?

Global Competence is a response to these questions, meaning the capacities of students to go beyond standard education and be ready to:

  analyse global and inter-cultural issues critically and from multiple perspectives;

– understand how differences affect perceptions, judgements and ideas of self and others;

-and  to engage in open, appropriate and effective interactions with others from different backgrounds on the basis of a shared respect for human dignity.

The discussion of global competence among stakeholders is gathering rapid momentum.  The challenge now is to embed global competence in schools around the world – so that everyday practice catches up with the discussion.  School can provide opportunities for young people to learn about global development, equip them with the means of accessing and analysing a broad range of cultural practices, let students engage in experiences that facilitate international and intercultural relations, and foster the value of the diversity of people, languages and cultures.  These objectives already feature in the curricula of many countries.  But they now need further evolution. Educators themselves need to embrace global competence and demonstrate the same skills and attitudes that they expect their students to learn.  But do we know how well students are prepared for life and employment in culturally diverse societies and in a globalised world?  Or how effective our education systems are in providing the teaching and learning of global competence? 

To make this tangible, we need to define measurable learning objectives and monitor its progress. 

At the OECD, we are working on a PISA assessment of Global Competence that would offer the first, comprehensive overview of education systems’ success in equipping young people to support the development of diverse and peaceful communities. We welcome your support to this important initiative that will be proudly linked to the Okayama G7 Ministerial. We are very proud of this. 

The comparative evidence from the PISA assessment could help countries to learn from each other how to best adapt curricula, promote teaching methods and adjust teachers’ training so as to facilitate the acquisition of such competences. 

We see global competence as the centrepiece of a broader vision for 21st Century education. That vision is shaped by three principles: equity, cohesion and sustainability. Today, all three principles are at risk.

Equity. The increased inequality of income and opportunities, along with the fact that poor kids receive poor education brings the issue of equity and inclusive growth high in the agenda. The digital economy, with automation is hollowing out jobs consisting of routine tasks and radically altering the nature of employment. For many, this is liberating and exciting: it’s a great moment to be a twenty–something entrepreneur with a disruptive internet business model. But for others, it means the scourge of vulnerable, non- standard work.     

Cohesion. In all parts of the world, we are seeing unprecedented movements of people, with the most dramatic flows coming from people escaping from poverty and war – and the long struggle to adapt to a new country. How to integrate diverse groups of people, and avoid rising extremist and fundamentalism?

Sustainability.  Delivering on the SDGs and on the climate deal achieved in Paris are priorities in the international community.  The goal declared by the Bruntland Commission almost thirty years ago – development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs – is today more relevant than ever, in the face of environmental degradation, climate change, overconsumption and population growth.

These are complex societal problems and they do suggest a very different set of goals and priorities for education systems. At the OECD we are addressing this through The Future of Education and Skills: OECD Education 2030. The project poses a large and fundamental question. How should countries design and develop rigorous instruction systems, pedagogical tools, including curriculum and assessment, to equip people to understand, engage with and shape our changing world – where both the speed of change and the nature of change appear to exceed what human society has faced before?    

Our moral compass is well-being. The OECD  has been promoting an economic growth that is inclusive and sustainable and that puts people’s well being  at the centre of the efforts. It follows that the purpose of education is to enable each person to secure their own well-being, to help provide for the well-being of others and to contribute to the well-being of society as a whole.

Education is foundational to this approach. What we know, and what we can do with what we know, will matter more than ever. But equally important will be the people that we are, our capacity to behave, engage and act, collaboratively and ethically.

Let me conclude by acknowledging that the years ahead will be supremely challenging. But that is not to say, not for one moment, that societies, communities, families and individuals need be passive or inert. We have agency, the ability to anticipate and channel change. Education, with new emphasis on character, attitudes, values and global competence, can be the process by which we learn to exercise that agency well.


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