5 ways we must transform our schools, according to the OECD’s head of education

18 Mar 2017 |

Our children need to become global citizens and we need to transform the way we teach in order to properly prepare them for the world. That was the message from Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills at the OECD, speaking at the Global Education and Skills Forum 2017 in Dubai.

Mr Schleicher said that the most successful societies were often the most creative ones. The more diverse our children’s interests and experiences, the more they are encouraged to work with their peers to address problems in new ways, the better prepared they will be for the new digital age.

These are five ways he says schools need to change.

1 Student inclusion

We are very good at ranking human talent but not very good at developing it, says Mr Schleicher. We need to focus on all students, all the time and move away from constantly testing to find the best. We should be developing everyone, not looking for those already doing well.

2 The curriculum

The kind of things that are the easiest to teach and the easiest to assess are also the type of knowledge that is most easy to digitalise, automate and outsource, according to Schleicher. In the digital world, our children need to be taught complex ways of thinking, complex ways of doing and the skills for collaboration, he says.

3 Teacher quality

The OECD Director believes that collective capacity and complex thinking do not sit with standardisation and compliance. Teachers need to be freed from the constant demands of tests and exams. Instead, teachers need to be high-level professional knowledge workers, showing young people how to problem solve in new and innovative ways.

4 School organisation

The most creative thinkers, Schleicher says, are those least likely to work well in strongly hierarchical structures. Instead, collegial, collaborative systems encourage independence and creative risk in a supportive way. Structure should emphasis exploration, not ensure compliance.

5 Accountability

In the ‘industrial’ schooling system, professional autonomy should be valued, with accountability to colleagues, families and children rather than the hierarchical structure. Schleicher insists that teachers and schools should have the freedom to experiment and support staff trying new ways of working.

Mr Schleicher warned that while the digital age will be liberating for those who can make the most of it, for those left behind without the right skills and education it will mean vulnerable working situations such as zero-hour contracts without benefits or insurance. For many it will mean no work at all.

If we fail to create more global citizens, he adds, we will see a further worsening of the existing problem of growing inequality and a further erosion of the social fabric.

The Global Education and Skills Forum is taking place on 18th and 19th March 2017 in Dubai, UAE, with the theme of “How do we make ‘real’ global citizens?”