Center on International Education Benchmarking

The Study Guide

1. Advancing 21st Century Competencies in East Asian Education Systems

Advancing21stcenturyskillsEast Asia is undergoing a rapid transformation of its primary and secondary education systems as countries reform education to respond to the fundamental changes taking place in societies and economies in the 21st century. Such reforms are not an addition of new “21st century competencies” to an established set of expectations, but rather, a comprehensive reconceptualization of education and its role in society. A new report from Asia Society, written by Professor Kai-ming Cheng of the University of Hong Kong and a team of researchers across East Asia, details the education reforms of Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan to provide students with skills for the future. Read more on the Asia Society’s website.

2. Arts Education at Risk, New Zealand Teachers Warn

art_classA dramatic reduction in arts education in primary schools is putting New Zealand’s creative industries at risk, arts teachers say. The Association of Arts Educators claims that subjects like music and drama are being neglected because of a lack of funding and a focus on literacy and numeracy. Education Ministry figures show that the number of secondary school enrolments in arts subjects has fallen by a quarter from 2005 to 2015, even though the number of school students has risen during that time period. The Education Ministry’s acting deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement, Karl Le Quesne, said schools were required to teach the arts in grades 1-10 and they could choose to allocate school funds on teacher training in those subjects. The chairperson of the subject association for music teachers, Tim Carson, claims that schools are instead prioritizing reading, writing and math because that is what schools are being judged on. Read more at Radio New Zealand.

3. Education Must Be a Key Element of Taiwan’s Economic Future

TaiwanStudentsWriting for the American Chamber of Commerce Taipei, N. Mark Lam argues that Taiwan’s economy is at a critical point as the personal computing industry, a sector that has underpinned much of Taiwan’s recent economic growth, transitions from being a hardware-centered to a software-centered industry.  Lam argues that the education system must keep pace with these developments and will be a critical piece of a new economic strategy.  Specifically, Lam argues that education officials should look for ways to improve the English language skills of students, re-emphasize technical education and encourage more post-secondary students to pursue graduate degrees at universities abroad.

4. Striking a Balance Between Public and Private Schools in Japan

Japanese StudentsWhile Japan’s public elementary, junior high and high schools are often praised internationally for their quality, especially in math and science, many parents in Japan complain about a decline in standards and look to private schools to provide the type of education they feel their children need. Education ministry statistics show that the number of private elementary and junior high schools has increased steadily over the past decade. Now, educational experts warn a balance needs to be struck between private education, which is profit-oriented and often emphasizes specific training and philosophies, and the broader concept of a public education to create well-rounded citizens in a diverse society. Read more at The Japan Times. And for more on the balance between private and public schools in creating a strong education system, see Marc Tucker’s recent EdWeek blog The School Choice Debate.

5. Curriculum Survey in Alberta Shows Public Support for Career-Focused Education

Vocational EdThe results of a public survey about the planned overhaul of the K-12 curriculum in Alberta showed strong support for career-focused learning and a focus on pathways to post-secondary education.  The public survey is a first step in the curriculum rewrite that is underway in the province, with an overhaul of kindergarten through grade 4 curricula scheduled for 2018, grades 5-10 scheduled for 2020, and grades 11 and 12 scheduled for 2022.  The survey has two parts: one part was designed to understand public thoughts on the full K-12 curriculum and the second part asked for feedback on specific subject areas.  In addition to surveys, roundtable discussions are scheduled to take place across the province over the coming year.  Education Minister David Eggan said he wants to hear from “…all groups that are interested in developing a fair, balanced curriculum that reflects who we are as Albertans and the skills we want to impart on our students.” For more, see Global News.

6. Netherlands and Finland at the Top of the World in Life Satisfaction for Students

OECD Student wellbeingThe OECD released the third volume of its analysis of PISA data this week, focusing on the life satisfaction of students, their relationships with teachers, use of their time outside of school, and prevalence of bullying. Students’ Well Being surveys 72 countries and jurisdictions, and finds that although in general correlations between students’ life satisfaction and achievement in school are relatively weak, top performers Netherlands and Finland are near the top of the lists in the life satisfaction of their students. Top-performing Asian systems like South Korea performed below the OECD average on these measures of well-being, highlighting the importance of reforms they have recently undertaken to de-emphasize high-stakes testing and promote more holistic curricula. The OECD recommended that policymakers consider policies to promote teacher collaboration, so that teachers can share information about students’ stress and challenges, as well as parent involvement to encourage parents to be more engaged with students’ learning and development in the home.

Image Source: OECD

7. Building a Culture of Learning in the Netherlands

VETstudentsMarking the publication of the OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report: Netherlands, the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher reflects on the three priority areas identified by the Dutch in responding to challenges posed by technology transformation, economic integration, population aging and increased migration.  The Dutch priorities include greater equity in skills outcomes, creating skills-intensive workplaces, and promoting a learning culture. The report recommends the development of a “national skills pact” that lays out a vision, specifies concrete actions, established performance measures and public reporting requirements for each partner.  Read more at OECD’s blog.


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