Thursday, 8 August 2013

What can OECD's PISA bring to global education post-2015?

This post by Charlotte Demuijnck, provides an overview of the OECD’s input on education in the post-2015 development framework and agenda. The OECD post-2015 paper on education is the first thematic paper in a series which outlines the Organisation’s position on the global debate in the lead up to the UN General Assembly in September 2013. This blog is part of the Wikiprogress series on education.*

The OECD’s contribution on education to the post-2015 framework: PISA for development is the second in a series of contributions to the post-2015 agenda. This paper provides a brief overview of progress to date with the education-related MDGs and looks forward to what global education goals could look like beyond 2015.

Building on the success of the universal access in primary schooling since the establishment of the MDGs, the emerging consensus of the international community on the post-2015 agenda is that education-related goals and targets should remain included in the post-2015 framework. As a matter of fact, the UN High Level Panel report released in May 2013 advises that one of the next universal goals be “Provide Quality Education and Lifelong Learning”. In this regard, the paper on education reflects the Organisation’s converging views towards this consensus. In fact, the OECD’s true contribution to the debate lies in its innovative and efficient approach to forming future education goals, which are both qualitative and measurable.

As emphasised in the Education paper, “experience since 2000 has underlined that schooling doesn’t necessarily produce learning” (p. 1). Although important progress has been made towards the education-related MDGs, challenges remain strong. The paper gives two directions for the post-2015 agenda: the new development agenda should focus on the quality of learning and should shift focus from primary to secondary education. However, such perspective requires dealing with issues of regional inequalities and statistical capacities at the national level, problems which were not sufficiently tackled in the pre-2015 framework. To that effect, the OECD expertise and policy instruments constitute a substantial input.

Particularly relevant is the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which started in 2000 and is based on a qualitative and causal approach to education outcomes. As intelligibly detailed in the paper, PISA addresses both “cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes”. As such, it provides “the most comprehensive and rigorous international assessment of learning outcomes in education” through the testing of 500 million 15 year-old students from both developed and developing countries. As a matter of fact, more and more developing countries like China or India “have expressed an interest [in PISA], following the successful participation of a large number of middle-income countries in previous PISA cycles” (p. 3).

As explained in the paper, “PISA for development” translates the ways in which PISA could become a performing tool in defining realistic and achievable goals in the post-2015 agenda. Based on lessons from PISA, “PISA for development” will help define “how to measure learning, the likely pace of progress towards achieving  a learning goal,” as well as how to avoid setting over-ambitious learning goals  and targets.

More importantly, PISA for development has concrete benefits for the post-2015 education-related goals and targets: as a single world reference, this OECD policy instrument is a comparable, credible and robust measure of progress for educational quality and equity at the global level. Precisely, PISA for development can help identify the world’s top performing and most equitable education systems. It offers developing countries insights for personalised reforms and is a driver for improved instutions and capacity building.

All in all, this paper reflects the OECD’s pioneered position in the education field and the ways in which the Organisation can bring cutting edge ideas and efficient policy instruments to support more equitable and higher levels of learning in the world. Throughout the paper, the reader can see the OECD’s firm commitment to contribute to the global debate on future education and the ways it intends to do so. 

Charlotte Demuijnck

*Education and Skills will be the Wikiprogress focus in September 2013. If you would like to contribute a blog or an article on education, please contact

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