I attended the launch yesterday of the global publisher Pearson’s Learning Curve annual report on world education indicators at their impressive HQ on the Strand in Central London.
The report is certainly worth a read and if you have the time you can examine some excellent moving infographics of key data (which you can even play with) on the website.
What key messages did I get from the report/launch?
Firstly, that education is a life long process and if a country doesn’t invest sufficiently at an early enough stage then the cost of ‘catch up’ rises. Investment doesn’t just mean spending lots of money or increasing numbers of education ‘widgets’ significantly, as anyone who has read Alison Wolf’s ‘Does Education Matter?‘ will know. Then she said that “there is in fact no clear link between growth and spending on education, let alone growth and central-government involvement in education planning.” I’m not sure how much the validity of this statement has changed since, but the wider point is about the quality of investment – this is what is critical.
Another aspect of the debate initiated by the report is to do with the nature of ’21st Century Skills’. What do we really mean?
I have previously blogged my views on such skills, and the teaching of knowledge vs skills dilemma in education is continuously tweeted about – currently I’m moving more towards the Trivium21c approach championed by Martin Robinson. The Learning Curve specifically highlights digital literacy as a key global skill required by all and I would go along with this, as long as it is clearly defined, and differentiated in schools from information technology and computer science, which also have their place – see this report by the Royal Society that I helped produce.
Last but not least, the speakers at the launch who discussed the Learning Curve report raised a number of interesting issues about where evidence of national educational performance actually take us. I’ve previously been critical of how PISA rankings are used by Education Ministers. I’m not a fan of ranking things educationally (except when as a parent I may have to choose a specific school for my child), but do like policy evidence and valid data that supports it – this should be as transparent and accessible as possible which is why Pearson deserves considerable credit for this particular enterprise.
Any arguments for educational change we make may end up being different, because we want different types of benefits, but we should all be starting from the same validated source. In theory at least …