Fifteen years ago, the OECD started evaluating education systems worldwide by testing the knowledge and competences of 15 year-old students through the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Right from very first PISA exercise in 2000, we noted that the although the results for France were around the OECD average, they revealed a system where children’s socio-economic status had a disproportionate influence on their school grades, and where children from disadvantaged backgrounds did not receive enough support.
The OECD PISA 2015 results are now in. Even if France’s performance hasn’t deteriorated since the last series in 2012, it has not improved much compared to previous rounds either. France’s results for science and mathematics are around the OECD average, while reading comprehension is slightly above average.
Nonetheless, the French system is still markedly two-tier. The number of high-achieving students is stable and higher than the OECD average, but lower levels are not improving, with a proportion of 15 year-olds in difficulty in science higher than the OECD average.
According to PISA 2015, students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have four times less chance of succeeding than the others. This is not only a human tragedy. It is also a brake on economic development, which can only be solid and sustainable when it is inclusive.
Reconciling educational excellence and success for all is not just the best way to tackle social inequalities at the root, but also to obtain good results.
Results from around the globe illustrate various best practices applied to improve the equity and performance of the education system. Portugal’s TEIP programme for example (Priority Intervention Education Territories) targets investment in geographical regions where the population is socially disadvantaged and where school drop-out rates are higher than the national average. Singapore, first in the PISA science rankings, has a comprehensive teacher evaluation system that includes in particular the contribution to students’ personal and academic development, as well as the quality of parent-teacher relations.
In short, the capacity of a system to help students in difficulty and those from disadvantaged backgrounds to improve raises the general quality of the system and thus its overall performance.
In France however, investments in education do not always reach these groups. I had some personal experience of this malfunctioning when I arrived in France and asked people to recommend primary schools for my own children. The answer was: “Don’t pick a school, pick a neighbourhood”.
How can we ensure that success at school isn’t the result of a postcode lottery? France has already implemented reforms going in the right direction.
As recommended by the OECD, more resources, teachers, scholarships and support have been made available for disadvantaged students. The July 2003 Education Act (Loi d’orientation et de programmation pour la refondation de l’école de la République du 8 juillet 2013) designed to tackle school drop-out and failure from the earliest age marks an important step. The recent implementation of numerous reforms inspired by the Act at primary and junior high levels, could, depending on their practical application, respond to certain ongoing challenges and help to improve students’ learning and outcomes.
Of course it is too early to see any impact of these reforms on PISA 2015 scores. However, they were necessary and should be strengthened and evaluated regularly.
In France, as elsewhere in the past, teachers will play a key role in the reforms and will have to take ownership of the main objectives. Reform of teacher training should therefore be continued and made a priority.
It is important to stress that contrary to a commonly-held belief in France, the PISA 2015 results do not show that reforms designed to reduce social and educational inequalities result in a lowering of the overall level. On the contrary. In countries that carried out such reforms, the number of students failing dropped in the following decade, while the good students got even better. OECD countries that have managed to achieve high performance in science along with equity in terms of educational outcomes include Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Korea, Norway, and the UK according to PISA 2015.
We chose science as the focus of PISA 2015 because a good understanding of science and the technologies derived from it is indispensable, especially in our age of digital revolution. This is not only a necessity for those whose career depends directly on science, but for every citizen who wants to take an enlightened position on any number of questions facing society today, from health to sustainable development or climate change. Today, everyone should be able to “think like a scientist”.
More generally, education is fundamental in these troubled times, when populism is on the rise, when France has been shaken by several terrorist attacks, and social inequalities in the world have left by the wayside a number of citizens who no longer have any trust in institutions.
More than ever, we have to invest in our children’s science education, to respond to the “post-fact” era with an open and informed dialogue. More than ever, we have to strengthen our education systems to face up to the challenges that threaten increasingly to divide us.
Tourism is an important player in the worldwide economy: In 2009, it accounted for just over 9% of global GDP and employed about one in twelve workers, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
As a sector, international tourism has been growing at a slightly faster pace than the world economy. Despite the recession and the downturn in tourism numbers,
that trends looks likely to continue over the long-term. Employment in tourism is also growing relatively strongly: Between 2000 and 2007 in OECD countries, the growth rate for employment in hotels and restaurants was over 2% per year, more than a percentage point ahead of the total employment growth rate. (more…)
If the beaches seem a little less crowded in the last couple of years, don’t be too surprised. International tourism took a knock during the global recession, as our charts show, with annual growth slipping to just 1.9% in 2008, or 5.2 percentage points lower than the growth rate registered during the previous four years. By the time figures for 2009 are finalised, they may show an actual decline of over 4%. That’s to be expected: International travel tends to respond quite sharply to economic slowdowns, while domestic tourism (people holidaying in their own countries) is more resilient. In OECD countries, about three out of four tourists are domestic. There have been some signs of growth in the first half of 2010, though whether this spells a recovery or reflects a particularly weak 2009 remains to be seen.
Despite any recent declines, tourism remains one of the world’s great growth industries. According to the UN’s World Tourism Organisation, just 25 million people travelled abroad for holidays in 1950. Today, the figure is more than 800 million, representing an annual growth rate of about 6.5%.
Just as it’s been for the past 15 years, France remains the world’s favourite destination, attracting just under 80 million visitors in 2008 (the most recent year for which full data is available). The United States is second, with about 58 million visitors from abroad, while Spain is third, with just over 57 million.
Immigrants were key drivers behind the economic boom, as they added skills and productivity to lift performance. Now, almost everywhere migrants are feeling the brunt of the crisis. Immigrants are particularly vulnerable during prolonged economic downturns, and this crisis has had the effect of throwing many immigrant workers out of work at a higher rate than for native-born workers. One reason is that immigrants tend to work in sectors which are sensitive to swings in the economic climate, that is, where demand for workers rises sharply in good times and drops fast during bad. (more…)