International Reads: News from the Top-Performing Countries

Key Reports

SwissWebcoverNew CIEB Report: Gold Standard: The Swiss Vocational Education and Training System
In an era marked by increasing competition, automation, and globalization, how does Switzerland, a country that produces comparatively few university graduates, enjoy the world’s 4th highest per capita income and an unemployment rate below 4 percent? According to CIEB’s latest report, Switzerland’s vocational education and training (VET) system is a very important contributor to that country’s economic success.

In the report, Gold Standard: The Swiss Vocational Education and Training System, authors Nancy Hoffman of Jobs for the Future and Robert Schwartz of the Harvard Graduate School of Education shed new light on the Swiss VET system, how businesses play—and benefit from—a central role in the training of a highly skilled workforce, and the seamless connections between VET and the broader Swiss education system. The full report is available online at our website.

Improvements to Vocational Education in Europe
The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) just released Stronger VET for Better Lives on Vocational Education and Training (VET) developments in member countries. The report finds countries made progress on developing more work-based learning opportunities; developing national frameworks for vocational qualifications; creating strategies to reduce dropouts; and developing life long learning initiatives. As highlighted in CIEB’s latest report, Switzerland’s system is on the leading edge of vocational education and training. Swiss VET expert Ursula Renold of the KOF Swiss Economic Institute recently spoke with Asia Society’s Heather Singmaster about how the Swiss system is producing such strong outcomes.

Experts: Changing Demands for Skills Put Young People’s Employment at Risk
A new publication from OECD’s Education and Employers Research, How should our schools respond to the demands of the labor market?: Eight perspectives, explores how the necessity of obtaining 21st century skills has made the labor market increasingly hostile to young people. The report compiles interviews with eight experts on international education and economics, including Andreas Schleicher and Kay Carberry. The respondents argue that as labor markets become more complex, dynamic, and deregulated, young people are having more trouble making strategic decisions about the kind of education and skills they need to obtain, and translating that into sustained employment. Read the full set of interviews or a summary on the OECD’s Education Today blog.

SCOPEstudycoverCan Teacher Certification Help Improve U.S. Schools?
A new study from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) investigates whether or not the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification process can lead to improved instructional practice school-wide. SCOPE’s study indicates that the use of the NBPTS certification process appears to have had a significant impact on the teaching community and the manner in which teaching occurs in these schools. The study finds that the certification process helps build a professional community where together teachers learn how to improve instruction.

Several U.S. States Raise Proficiency Standards in Math and Reading
A new report comparing state proficiency standards with the proficiency standards of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) finds that for the first time since No Child Left Behind was established, a substantial number of states have raised their proficiency standards. According to the report, 20 states strengthened their standards, while 8 loosened them. The authors surmise that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) may be driving these changes, citing the fact that while each of the states with the highest proficiency standards have all adopted CCSS, the six states that are not implementing CCSS for reading or math all continue to set low proficiency standards. Read more at Education Next.

International Studies Show Widespread Adoption of National Assessments
A blog post on International Education News looks at recent studies and finds that the use of nation-wide assessments (both high-stakes and low-stakes) has doubled in the last 20 years. The forthcoming UNESCO Education For All Global Monitoring Report finds that 82 percent of developed countries now administer national assessments, up from 49 percent in 2000. And the just-released National Learning Assessment Mapping Project looks at the learning domains being assessed by 403 different national assessments around the world. They find that while all assessments are assessing literacy and numeracy, and over half are assessing sciences, less than 5 percent address domains like “Learning Approaches and Cognition.”


Top Headlines

Canada:

moneyhouseMost British Columbia Post-Secondary Students Graduate Debt-Free
In a recent interview with CBC News, British Columbia’s Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson stated that 70 percent of tertiary graduates have no debt and of those who do, two-year college graduates have an average debt of CAN$10,000 and four-year university graduates have an average of CAN$20,000. Wilkinson attributed the low debt load to the availability of public supports to help with tuition and that many students work while in school.

Alberta to Decrease Weight of 12th Grade Exam on Final Grade
Alberta will decrease the weight of the 12th grade diploma exams in students’ final school grade from 50 percent to 30 percent; with the rest of the final grade determined by in class work. The decision was announced by Education Minister Gordon Dirks and applauded by the teachers associations, the Catholic schools associations and endorsed by the Alberta School Board.

Alberta Schools May Remove Cap on the Number of Charter Schools
Alberta, the only province in Canada to allow charter schools, may remove the existing cap of 15 charters in its new Education Act. School Board President Helen Clease said “we’re looking for ways to educate all kids” and charter schools provide alternatives.

China

ChinaTaiwanTeachersChina Develops Teacher Exchange Programs with England and Taiwan
China is expanding its efforts to strengthen early childhood education with a new teacher exchange program with Taiwan. The three-year project is aimed at improving the quality of offerings for young students and informing plans for Chinese provinces to implement an early childhood teaching certification system. Similarly, the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission is extending its own teacher exchange partnership with the U.K.’s Department of Education.

Finland

No More School Subjects in Finland? Not quite.
There was a great deal of interest in reports that that some schools in Finland are experimenting with getting rid of school subjects and replacing them with interdisciplinary themes. However, as Finnish education expert Pasi Sahlberg says,“No, Finland isn’t ditching traditional school subjects. Here’s what’s really happening.”

Singapore

Singapore Subsidizing Education and Training for Mid-Career Workers
As part of the Singapore government’s SkillsFuture initiative to encourage workers to continually develop and maintain their skills, the government announced that mid-career workers aged 40 and above can take courses from diploma to postgraduate level and pay as little as less than 10 percent of regular course fees at universities, polytechnics, the Institute of Technical Education, and skills upgrading courses offered by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.

South Korea

DuksungUniWomen’s Universities in South Korea At Risk
The Korea Times reports that the seven women-only universities in South Korea are at risk of failing due to lower graduate employment rates than coed universities making it harder to attract candidates and lowering their national rankings. The institutions that get the lowest rankings on the survey lose government funding, further jeopardizing their ability to stay open.

Private Tutoring Investments on the Rise in South Korea
South Korean parents spent an average of 242,000 won ($220) a month per child in 2014 on private tutoring for their children—up 1.1 percent from a year earlier, according to an annual survey by the Ministry of Education and Statistics Korea. Read more at Korea Herald.

Taiwan

Proposed Changes to Early Childhood Laws in Taiwan Spark Protest
Thousands of protestors demonstrated at Taiwan’s Ministry of Education recently in response to proposed government regulations that opponents say would privilege for-profit, private providers over public preschools. Ministry of Education officials argued that their proposals represented their best effort to balance the competing interests of for-profit and public providers.

Taiwanese Parents Say Teacher Transfers Negatively Impact Students
Taiwan’s Ministry of Education announced this week that it would delay implementation of rules prohibiting elementary and junior high school teachers from applying to transfer out of their existing schools for the first three years of their placement. The move triggered immediate reaction from parents groups who argued that the frequency of transfers is harmful to students, as teachers “carry” their classes, moving with the students as they progress through grades. When teachers move after two years, students are left with substitutes who cannot provide the same level of continuity of instruction, according to proponents of the rule change.