An article by Andreas Schleicher, OECD Deputy Director of Education, that shows a strong correlation between how well a country performs in PISA tests and how rich they are in natural resources. He finds a significant negative relationship between the money countries extract from national resources and the knowledge and skills of their school population. Finland, South Korea, Singapore and Israel, for example, all outperform their oil-rich neighbors by a large margin when it comes to learning outcomes at school and this is a global pattern that generally across 65 countries that took part in the latest PISA assessment. (See figure)
Exceptions such as Canada, Australia and Norway, that are rich of natural resources but still score well on PISA, have all established deliberate policies of saving these resource rents, and not just consuming them.
According to Andreas, “today’s learning outcomes at school, in turn, are a powerful predictor for the wealth and social outcomes that countries will reap in the long run.”
One interpretation is that in countries with little in the way of natural resources – other examples are Finland, Singapore or Japan – education has strong outcomes and a high status at least in part because the public at large has understood that the country must live by its knowledge and skills and that these depend on the quality of education. So the value that a country places on education seems to depend at least in part on a country’s view of how knowledge and skills fit into the way it makes its living. Placing a high value on education may be an underlying condition for building a world-class education system and a world class economy, and it may be that most countries that have not had to live by their wits in the past will not succeed economically and socially unless their political leaders explain why, though they might not have had to live by their wits in the past, they must do so now.
Among the steps governments should take, says Andreas, is a better understanding of those skills that drive strong and sustainable economic and social outcomes; we need to ensure that the right mix of skills is being taught and learned over the lifecycle of people; we need to develop effective labor-markets that use their skill potential; and we need better governance arrangements with sustainable approaches to who should pay for what, when and where. OECD’s new Skills Strategy is now providing a framework to support countries with building, maintaining and using their human capital to boost employment and growth and promote social inclusion.
You can read the full article on the OECD’s education blog here.