Thomas Liebig, OECD International Migration Division
Always a hot topic, integration of immigrants is high on the policy agenda in many countries and one of the main issues of concern for public opinion. Yet, the discussion is shaped by plenty of misunderstandings and misrepresentations – a regular feature of the migration debate. Against such a backdrop, there’s never been a greater need to get to the facts – to inform public debate and to guide sensible policymaking.
A step forward in helping that to happen comes in a new report from the OECD and the European Union, Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2015: Settling In. The report offers the first broad set of international comparisons of how well migrants and their children are “settling in” across all EU and OECD countries – a key issue, and not just for immigrants. When immigrants integrate successfully, it greatly increases their potential to contribute to the economy and society of their adopted homes. And their integration is a precondition for the acceptance of further immigration by the host country society.
So what do the numbers show? To start with, they underline how hard it is to generalise about how both countries and individuals experience immigration. These experiences range from the likes of Australia, Canada and New Zealand, which have traditionally seen migration as part of nation-building, to much more recent migration destinations in Europe, such as Spain and Ireland. But even here there are substantial variations. Immigrants to Spain in recent years have tended to have fairly low levels of education; by contrast, newcomers to Ireland have been pretty well educated.
Nevertheless, despite all these variations, not to mention the differences between immigrants themselves in terms language ability; education; reasons for migrating – be it for employment, family, or humanitarian; and so on; certain broad themes emerge in the report:
There is no “integration champion”: Whereas countries such as Australia and Canada – which have taken in large numbers of skilled labour migrants on top of family and humanitarian migrants – have better outcomes than most European destinations, they too face some challenges, for example with respect to making the most out of migrants’ skills.
More immigrants doesn’t mean less integration: There’s no obvious link between the proportion of immigrants in a population and how well they do across a range of areas, such as in employment, income levels and education. In terms of employment, countries that are home to larger proportions of immigrants even tend to have better outcomes.
Things get better over time: In many areas immigrants tend to do a less well than native-born. In particular, recent arrivals face difficulties virtually everywhere. However, the longer immigrants stay, the narrower the gap with native-born becomes. That underlines the reality that integration is a process, not an overnight transformation, and reflects the success – or otherwise – of immigrants in making friends, learning local ways and acquiring a new language.
Immigrants’ kids still face problems: The acid test of integration is the fate of the so-called “second generation” – that is, the native-born children of immigrants. If integration efforts are working, the children of migrants born in adopted countries should be doing about as well in education and, later, the workforce as the children of natives. But the signs of success for them are mixed. While they’re narrowing the gap in educational performance and with respect to labour market outcomes – particularly for women – they still lag behind in other areas, particularly in Europe when it comes to employment. In Europe also, the proportion of locally born children of immigrants who say they feel discriminated against is worrying high – a feeling that could have grave implications for social cohesion.
Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2015: Settling In
OECD work on migration
Today’s post, by Qian Tang, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, is one in a series of ‘In my view’ pieces written by prominent authors on issues covered in the “Development Co-operation Report 2015: Making Partnerships Effective Coalitions for Action”
External support continues to play an important role in funding education – particularly in the least developed countries. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, with the development assistance provided by many countries stagnating and even declining, countries are seeking new sources of funding.
In this context, UNESCO has been experimenting with a novel type of partnership that is showing promise. The four-year UNESCO-China Funds-in-Trust project, which began in 2012, aims to support eight African countries* in their efforts to accelerate progress towards education for all by using new technologies to develop capacity in teacher education and training institutions.
What makes this project particularly innovative is the fact that it is being implemented through a platform, managed by UNESCO, that attracts funds not only from the government of the People’s Republic of China – with President Xi Jinping having publicly committed to the project – but also from Chinese enterprises based in China and/or in the beneficiary countries, such as the telecommunications giant Huawei. Each actor brings unique contributions – be they funds and/or technical know-how – to the table. Drawing on the competencies of each partner allows for effective use of human and financial resources.
What have we seen so far? For the beneficiary countries, learning from the development experience of another country has created a sense of joint purpose and helped overcome the mistrust between governments and the private sector that can sometimes impede action.
There have also been numerous benefits for China. This is the first time that the country has provided funds-in-trust via an international organisation for the development of education in Africa. The project has enabled China to demonstrate that it is a committed stakeholder in the global community. At the same time, it is allowing this new provider of development co-operation to become familiar with international practices and standards. The impact on Chinese enterprises is also important, helping them to gain awareness of their social responsibility towards the African communities in which they operate.
Of course, challenges remain. In order to ensure lasting impact, it will be important to integrate the project within national education development plans – an aspect that has not yet been sufficiently addressed.
For now, UNESCO is working to sustain the momentum of this new partnership and extend its reach. Building on the initial success, a number of additional Chinese donors from the public and private sectors have signed agreements with UNESCO: for example, Hainan Airlines and the Hainan Foundation are focusing their attention on girls’ and women’s education in Asia and Africa; the Shenzhen government is developing higher education in Asia and Africa; and Huawei is using new technologies to promote equity and quality in education in the least developed countries.
*The African countries supported by the UNESCO-China Funds-in-Trust project are: Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Namibia (first round); and the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Tanzania and Uganda (added in the second round).
Alain Lumbroso, economist at the International Transport Forum
Subsidies in aviation are almost as old as air transport itself. Most if not all countries at one point or another have provided public funding to some parts of their aviation value chains, be it air carriers, airports or air navigation services such as air traffic control.
This year, much attention has been focused on three Gulf carriers. Their strong growth and increasing market share, especially between Europe and points east and south, has generated concern from competitors that they are being unjustly subsidised and thus distorting the marketplace. Is this a legitimate concern or simply old-fashioned protectionism?
Although each side makes an eloquent case in the ongoing debate, some arguments do not pass muster. For example, while operating in a labour union-free environment can certainly reduce costs, it is by no means a subsidy. Airports the world over receive generous public subsidies which are passed on to their customers, the airlines. Although airlines who hub at a subsidised airport benefit most from the subsidy, it’s tenuous to affirm that a specific airline gets a subsidy and not others. Likewise, benefits accorded under US bankruptcy laws to any company that places itself under its protection should not be considered a subsidy, nor should provisions in competition law that permit the issuance of anti-trust immunity to help companies perform better together. A key point to remember here is that sovereign jurisdictions have the right to set their own labour, fiscal, bankruptcy and competition policies and legislation and, of course, as they vary country by country, they will confer comparative advantages or disadvantages to companies operating in those countries.
As accusations fly back and forth, it’s worth considering what actually constitutes a legal subsidy in aviation. Or what constitutes a balanced and fair competitive landscape, often referred to as a “level playing field”. Or fair competition for that matter. Unfortunately, none of these terms are actually defined for aviation, and simply adopting a commonly-accepted definition from other sectors may be an effective intellectual shortcut but has no basis in law.
What constitutes an acceptable subsidy is clearly defined for other industries. For example, the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs defines what a subsidy is for the international trade of goods, but it is mute on what constitutes a subsidy in air transport, or any other service for that matter. The General Agreement on Trade of Services has so far failed to define what constitutes a subsidy and, in any case, specifically excludes air transport services from the agreement. Thus, reasonable people can disagree on what constitutes fair competition, especially when no competition law is broken.
The Chicago Convention of 1944, the key legal foundation of international aviation, speaks of equality of opportunity but not equality of outcomes. In that respect, operating in a low cost, low-taxation, non-unionised environment is opened to all airlines operating in the Gulf, with the local carrier benefiting the most simply because it has a higher concentration of flights there. The Chicago Convention only makes a single mention of subsidies, in Article 54i, where it tasks the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council to collect and publish information about public subsidies in aviation but fails to put an obligation on countries to report them or to set any kind of boundaries as to which type of subsidies are permitted and which are not.
While much focus has been on monetary subsidies, one cannot discount the impact of public policies and how they can favour domestic carriers. A prime example of this is how nearly all countries in the world outlaw cabotage, meaning that the domestic market is reserved for domestic carriers only, or, in the EU, that the intra-EU market is reserved for EU carriers. This can be a significant advantage for US, EU, Chinese, Japanese and Canadian air carriers, while remaining meaningless for carriers from smaller countries. A second example is how a number of countries negotiate air services agreements in a way to try and favour their home carriers rather than simply improving connectivity for travellers and shippers. Defending the interest of national carriers can arguably be a reasonable policy goal, but such a policy does have a very positive value for home carriers which does not show up in any accounting balance sheet.
Finally, one should note that most countries inject some sort of public funding into international aviation and that there exists no law, convention or treaty that forbids it or sets boundaries for country interventions, with the exception of the EU which has a legal framework for State-Aid of the air transport sector but applies only unilaterally to EU member countries, airlines and airports. While much of the attention has been on two countries and three carriers, most if not all countries have a rich history of public financing of the air transport value chain which continues to this day. Applying the remedies suggested by the Partnership for an Open and Fair Skies to all countries who have financially supported in some way their air transport industry, including the US, would significantly dampen efforts to liberalise global aviation and curtail the benefits that come from operating in an open and free market. And even when all public funding has ceased, the stock of subsidies has enabled the creation of the same global carriers and global hubs who are today calling for an end to subsidies in order to restore fair competition to the air transport industry.
So what could be done? Three things:
- In the absence of a clear legal framework defining acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, the first step is somewhat obvious: defining rules of conduct of what actually constitutes fair competition. Most likely through the auspices of the ICAO, countries must first define what is an acceptable and an unacceptable subsidy, a concept that right now is left wide-open to the interpretation of parties with a vested interest.
- Countries should agree on a mandatory, transparent and uniform reporting system for public subsidies that would inject some much needed transparency to the issue and avoid the volleys of accusations and counter-accusations we have witness this year.
- A binding arbitration process, preferably through ICAO, will need to be put in place and permit one country to file a complaint against another. Arbitration could lead to a monetary penalty paid by the country who granted unfair subsidies to the country whose carriers suffered from unfair competition. This monetary penalty would avoid the present situation where perceived wrongdoing is punished through traffic rights restrictions, in effect imposing a quota on the international trade of service, the most harmful of outcomes.
Today’s post from Lilianne Ploumen, Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Co-operation and Co-Chair, Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, is one in a series of ‘In my view’ pieces written by prominent authors on issues covered in the “Development Co-operation Report 2015: Making Partnerships Effective Coalitions for Action”
As co-chairs of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, my Mexican and Malawian colleagues and I have a huge task – and a huge opportunity – ahead. A new, truly universal development agenda is taking shape and it holds out to all people on this planet the promise of a more equal and sustainable world, with less conflict and less poverty.
The international community must come to agreement on the challenges we will meet and set the goals, targets and indicators to guide this joint effort. I hope to contribute to solidifying the Global Partnership as a unique platform that will make a decisive contribution to realising the promise of these Sustainable Development Goals.
It is clear that we have to act collectively and without hesitation. For the first time in history, ending poverty within one generation is within our grasp. We have a historic opportunity to change the lives of billions for the better, and for the sake of the hundreds of millions of people still facing malnutrition, unemployment and inequality, we must grasp it.
How can the Global Partnership help to achieve this objective? In my view, it is only through combined efforts that the change needed can happen and better results can be achieved. The Global Partnership can pave the way for enhanced co-operation among governments, companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders, which is fundamental for improving the effectiveness of development co-operation.
With its long legacy of joint work on development effectiveness, the Global Partnership also is well placed to support transparent and accountable action among the partners working to achieve common goals.
The Global Partnership can also facilitate the sharing of knowledge and expertise, providing models of good practice from its in-country monitoring of progress against key indicators.
During my tenure as co-chair over the coming two years, I aim to provide political guidance and strategic direction to the Global Partnership to ensure that it continues to foster open interaction among equals and explore new, innovative forms of collaboration. This is an unprecedented opportunity and there is no time to lose. Let’s get to work!
Rolf Alter @raltergov Director, Public Governance and Territorial Development Directorate
It’s hard to imagine government doing its job well without a commitment to basic levels of integrity. Imagine if every administrative process required a bribe to this official or that to accomplish it. Or imagine seeing your tax money wasted on lavish buildings or useless infrastructure because of collusion between public officials and private investors.
And what about the effects you can’t see but end up paying for: the very useful bridge that cost 50% more than it should have due to bribes, skimming and inefficiencies (not to mention potential quality issues); or a screwdriver with a 300% mark-up and other overpriced items buried in a defence contractor’s invoice? These are all examples of waste and abuse of hard-earned citizens’ wages made possible by breaches of integrity. Beyond monetary costs, there is also a steep price to be paid in lost trust and cohesion, both essential to reducing transaction costs and making our societies function.
Without a culture of integrity, democratic processes themselves become endangered. In every society there are individuals, families, organisations and even institutions that try to distort political processes and circumvent commercial rules and regulations. The role of a culture of integrity is, in part, to ensure the integrity of our democratic processes. It means having the controls in place to prevent narrow interests from “gaming” the essential fairness of political and business processes.
The OECD takes a holistic approach that considers all of the risk areas in which corruption takes place, as well as all of the actors, activities and transactions that need to be protected. Through our evidence-based approach, we are able to provide policy support that gives countries tools to help in the fight against corruption. In this role, the OECD partners with the G20, studying the relationship between corruption and economic growth, elaborating whistle blower protection frameworks, public sector integrity frameworks and more.
The risk of corruption is strongest in the case of government-led projects on infrastructure. In 2013, OECD countries spent close to $1.35 trillion in public investment, representing 3.1% of OECD GDP and 15.6% of total investment (public and private). The cost of corruption and mismanagement has been estimated to contribute to 10-30% of large infrastructure budgets. Indeed, the majority of cases brought under the OECD Anti-bribery Convention concern public procurement. The OECD Integrity Framework for Public Investment is a new tool (forthcoming) that can help governments to identify vulnerabilities and the potential points of entry of corruption in infrastructure projects.
There are concrete steps that can be taken in achieving a culture of integrity—and the OECD’s Directorate for Public Governance & Territorial Development (GOV) is accompanying many countries in this process. It requires coherent efforts to update standards and to provide guidance to public and private stakeholders. It also requires countries to anticipate risks and apply tailored countermeasures. These are all areas where governance and good policy make the difference by helping to bring about systemic change, rather than after-the-fact measures that risk overreaction and the undermining of credibility.
But good policies need to have teeth, in other words, monitoring and enforcement. A country may have campaign spending rules and even an oversight committee in place, but little or no enforcement. Underfunding enforcement is one of the ways that policies can be undermined by special interests. Policies must impose clear rules and meaningful penalties to ensure fair and democratic processes.
To achieve this, GOV works with countries to adopt a whole-of-society approach. That means all stakeholders, public, private and civil society, must work together to make it happen. If that sounds ambitious, it is. Fortunately, the OECD has processes that are helping countries take important strides in ensuring basic fairness in their political processes and public investment practices.
Carly Avery, Investment Division, OECD Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs
Most businesses are good. They pay their taxes, they create employment, they abide by the laws, and they generally contribute to the societies in which they operate. But unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. And when businesses behave badly, the human consequences can be devastating: factories collapse killing thousands; workers, often children, are treated like slaves; rivers, lakes, and even seas are rendered lifeless, and entire species are threatened.
In order to deal with cases of bad business behaviour such as these, we would need a multilateral system where victims of this type of treatment could complain, and the person receiving the complaint would analyse it, see if it’s valid, alert all the parties involved, and sit down with them to help fix the situation. No, this isn’t some Disney film scenario with a dashing knight in shining armour swooping in to save the day. In fact, this is something that already exists: the National Contact Points (NCPs) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
The OECD Guidelines are the leading international standard for responsible business conduct for multinational enterprises wherever they operate in the world. They cover all areas of business ethics, including human rights, labour issues, environmental protection, anti-bribery, taxation, and science and technology. They operate on the expectation that businesses should not only do good, but that they should also do no harm. The Guidelines were first adopted in 1976 and today 46 governments have signed up.
With the Guidelines you can raise your hand and say “Hey, stop doing that to my fish!” and someone, an NCP, can do something about it. NCPs are the mechanism that reinforces how the Guidelines are applied. They are units that have been set up by every government adhering to the Guidelines and are there to help parties find a solution for issues arising from any alleged non-observance of the recommendations found in the Guidelines. This isn’t a legal process so NCPs focus on problem solving – they offer good offices and facilitate access to consensual and non-adversarial procedures (ex. conciliation or mediation).
So, everything is fine then, right? Well, not quite. Here’s a statistic for you: multinationals from countries that adhere to the Guidelines have $22.6 trillion invested around the world. The NCPs received 35 new cases in 2014. That means that there was one case for every $645 billion of foreign direct investment in 2014. That’s either a lot of very responsible multinationals or we’re missing something.
The natural conclusion is that not all instances of bad business conduct are being alerted to NCPs. Why? Simply put, NCPs aren’t visible enough. If President Obama can cite the Guidelines in terms of the US anticorruption agenda and yet “NCP” in the UK is better known as an acronym for UK National Car Parks, there’s a mismatch.
Governments need to up the stakes. If they gave more funding to this vital mechanism, NCPs could be more visible and live up to their potential.
G7 governments agree. In their 2015 statement they committed to strengthening “mechanisms for providing access to remedies, including the National Contact Points…” and encouraged the OECD “to promote peer reviews and peer learning on the functioning and performance of NCPs” while ensuring that their own NCPs “are effective and lead by example”.
Here are some of the problems increased funding could help fix:
- Staffing issues: In 2014 only 15 of the 46 NCPs had an allocated budget and this impacts staffing. Few NCPs have staff solely devoted to the responsibilities of the NCP.
- Communications deficit: currently only 57% of NCPs have or are working on developing a structured promotional plan.
- Lack of transparency: NCPs are encouraged to report publicly on their activities but only 40% have put at least 1 annual report online over the past three years. 
With more staff, NCPs would be better equipped to handle the complaints they receive. With better communications they can promote Guidelines more widely, and with greater transparency they can build the vital element of trust.
If NCPs had more clout, companies would work even harder to protect and develop their reputations by pre-empting any complaints about the ways they operate. This in turn would contribute to growth that benefits individuals, and communities, as well as global aspirations such as the Sustainable Development Goals.
What’s the OECD doing in all of this? Since the most recent update of the Guidelines in 2011, the OECD has increased its work with NCPs to strengthen the grievance mechanism process to ensure that it delivers results. This includes peer-reviews and targeted communications support. The Chair of the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct has even launched a competition to find a better name for “NCPs”. If you have an idea, send me your suggestions by 30 September 2015.
As I said at the outset, bad business conduct exists, but we also have NCPs working hard to manage the complaints they receive, despite imperfections. And sometimes the NCPs get their Disney moment, like when the UK NCP provided mediation to help the WWF and Soco talk to each other and avoid drilling in Virunga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site. Concrete change has to start somewhere, and the NCPs are part of the change for enforcing responsible business conduct happening around us right now.
Read the brochure explaining the Guidelines
Find out more about the NCP specific instance process
Access the OECD Database of Specific Instances
 These three statistics are taken from the 2014 Annual Report on the Guidelines (OECD publishing, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/mne-2014-en): Table 1.2, and pages 23 and 26.
Regarding NCP reporting: NCPs are required to report annually to the OECD Investment Committee and are encouraged to make their annual report public.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us be clear: as a society we are increasingly attracted to simplistic solutions, be it in the form of religious denominations or through the populist promises of salvation of parties on the right and left margins. Now, we could also utilise this escape route in the financial industry we work in, on the grounds that simplification has been accepted in other areas of society. But not so fast. Our position and status as well-educated, well-paid and (often) with high self-esteem brings responsibilities with it. We must not surrender to the call of simplistic answers. How then does our industry transcend the simplistic?
On what is feasible
The passionate debate on efficient markets and rational investors is no longer needed. It has been decided. Markets are not efficient, nor are investors rational (see On Market Efficiency). On the other hand, markets are not completely inefficient, but adaptive. People are not completely irrational, but oscillate between emotion and reason (see Unethical Asset Allocation Methods).
What remains the biggest obstacle in regards to change management is changing the behavioural patterns of employees along the investment process.
Does the employee have to be at the centre of the process in order to get closer to the knowledge boundary in asset allocation? Are high frequency trading and RoboAdvisors not evidence enough that humans may not have to play a role in the investment process? Slow down. All quantitative methods and algorithms are based on assumptions of market patterns and how these can be made utilisable as best as possible. Who decides on the assumptions? That’s right, the human developers. In order to lead investment methods closer to the knowledge boundary of asset allocation, this only leaves the focus on the investment team and the investment process it experiences.
What is feasible now? In one sentence: “More conscious and therefore rational investment decisions by means of proactive management of cognitive dissonances and an analysis focus on causality instead of correlation in regards to understanding market correlations create a higher probability of anti-cycles in the investment process.” (Schuller).
If you were searching for the Holy Grail, you have now found it.
Innovation & Asset Allocation
The asset management industry is currently being attacked on two fronts. Regulators increasingly see a systemic risk in asset managers and are trying to implement regulatory measures in order ensure a better handling; and Fintechs are questioning inherent business models and are increasing the margin pressure.
Other industries are already demonstrating the two solutions for this increasing limitation of room for manoeuvre. The temporary solution is economies of scale. This is already the case in our industry. There are regulatory and organisational constraints in regards to the oligopolisation of industries. It is only a temporary solution.
The sustainable solution is specialisation. Competitive advantages by means of specialisation can be won through innovation. This is the only sustainable solution.
In our industry, innovations are rare. Innovation means a shifting of the knowledge boundary on asset allocation, a measurable improvement of the service provisions of corporate finance compared to the real economy. The innovative ability and motivation of the investment teams (investment committee, foundation chairpersons, family office managers etc.) therefore comes into focus. The sustainable competitive ability of an investment process stands and falls with the investment team. Let us refer to them as high performance investment teams (HPIT) to uqse Panthera’s terminology.
Reducing behaviour gaps
Creating a concept is one thing, establishing and managing HPIT is another. There are a number of well-tested starting points, including skin in the game–based incentive systems, transparent governance structures, and quantifiable, transparent performance measurements. But here we’d like to concentrate on reducing the behaviour gap.
The “behaviour gap” has been sufficiently researched and quantified from an academic point of view. A result of the pro-cyclic behaviour of market participants, explained by emotional and wrong decisions. It is self-explanatory that this structural underperformance leads to significantly reduced returns for investors over time compared to buy-and-hold.
(Source: Vanguard, Bogle Financial Markets Research, Dalbar)
Although Bogle is mainly highlighting the cost penalty, his research shows the even larger potential for improvement when it comes to minimizing the timing and selection penalty. For reductions of selection penalties, we refer to our initial point, namely the necessity of high performance investment teams.
Implications for private pensions (Third pillar of pensions)
Within ongoing demographic change, a significant shift in pension policies can be observed. Private pensions (the “third pillar”) become increasingly important to close the pension gap, opened by the pillars 1 and 2 (state and employer plans). This puts European trustees in the difficult position of becoming long-term investors for their own private pension plan, with all the difficulties like selecting the right asset allocation and investment vehicles – and the right insurance company. Our trustee should keep three concrete facts in mind:
- Costs matter. In a secular low yield environment, each basis point in fees is spent unnecessarily. A focus on passive replication is recommended. If active management fees are justified, the investment products used within the private pension plan should be institutional share classes without distribution costs.
- By incorporating strategies based on the body of knowledge led by behavioural asset management, a higher emphasis of rule-based investment processes and dynamic asset allocation strategies could be a way to structurally increase equity allocations in private pension plans. Structurally higher equity allocation will transform mid- to long-term to higher expected returns for private pension trustees, which can alleviate the expected drag of the other main pension pillars due to demographic change.
- Insurance companies offer to pre-select and perform due diligence on investment products. Trustees then select from this shortlist, trying to assemble a feasible asset allocation for their pension plan. How can our thoughts on HPIT be of relevance for insurance companies? During an insurance company’s due diligence process of selecting investment products for private pension plans, it should only consider those with a stringent rule-based investment process committed to high performance investment teams. Like that, the whole investment industry would be forced to focus more on the most important risk and performance driver, namely the man at the centre of the investment decision.
Tracey Burns, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills
Did you ever wonder if education has a role to play in stemming the obesity epidemic sweeping across all OECD countries? Or what the impact of increasing urbanisation might be on our schools, families, and communities? Or whether new technologies really are fundamentally changing the way our children think and learn? If so, you’re not alone.
The OECD’s work on Trends Shaping Education stimulates reflection on the challenges facing education by providing an overview of key economic, social, demographic and technological trends. It has been used by ministries to guide strategic thinking and in Parliaments as a strategic foresight tool. It’s also part of the curriculum in teacher education colleges, and is a resource for teachers when designing courses and lectures, as well as parents and students themselves.
The fourth edition of the book will be launched in January 2016. Two weeks ago, the Trends team travelled to Brussels to hold an expert workshop with researchers in a number of domains, including demography, governance, urban design, new technologies, climate change, financial literacy, small and medium enterprises, children and families, and banking.
Why take the time to meet face-to-face with these experts? To be honest we weren’t sure that it would yield any results. Researchers have many demands on their time, and it is not often that they are given a chance to look beyond their own particular speciality to think more holistically about global trends. Sometimes, though, it is by bringing people together unexpectedly that the best ideas emerge.
Will robots replace our teaching force in 10 years? In 20 years? Will new fertility technologies allow for designer babies (and, in parallel, “rejects” that did not turn out as expected)? Will online relationships rival or replace our friendship groups? What might this mean for families, and schools? These ideas might seem radical, but the trends behind them are supported by science. And while they are still speculative, there are a number of trends that could have an impact on education, if not today, then tomorrow or the next day. And yet most of our education systems still do not address them.
For example, climate change trends make it clear that across OECD countries we can expect to experience more and more extreme weather events. In most of our countries, the effects will be felt most acutely in cities, where the density of the population and ageing infrastructure (roads and services, such as water, electricity and plumbing) makes us especially vulnerable. If you combine this with worries about the emergence of new epidemics (MERS in Korea is just the latest example) and our ageing populations, a cautious city planner has reason for concern. And not just hypothetical reasons, either. Recent flooding in New York and other major cities has revealed the weakness of many of our emergency-response services.
So what does this have to do with education? Good question. In the short term, communities need to have a plan to educate their populations on what to do (and not do) in the event of a major storm or other extreme weather event such as drought or fires. In the medium and long term, we need to develop school infrastructure and transport that are designed to provide safe access for our students. Hoping it won’t happen is not a sustainable plan – certainly not for the communities that have already experienced an extreme weather event or those that are forecast to do so in the near future.
This is just one example. Important trends to keep an eye on range from the macro level (increasing globalisation and migration) all the way through national and regional labour markets, urban planning, and our changing demography and family structures. How can education support our ageing populations – currently one of the major demographic preoccupations for most OECD governments – to stay active and healthy well past retirement? Will cities keep growing at increasing speeds, or will we continue to see the decline of mid-size cities, such as Detroit (USA) and Busan (Korea)? What about new technologies in the classroom, will they change the way we teach and learn? Perhaps even our concept of what a classroom is?
In September, we plan to hold a second workshop in order to discuss how the trends we have identified might interact with education in the short and medium term. Stay tuned to find out how that goes, and to get a sneak peek between the covers of the next Trends Shaping Education volume, due out in January next year.