From taking a painkiller to determining what is a “balanced” meal, from drinking pasteurised milk to deciding whether or not to buy a hybrid car, science is omnipresent in our daily lives. The most recent of the triennial surveys of 15-year-old students known as PISA (the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment) focused on students’ performance in, and attitudes towards, science. Some of the findings from PISA 2015:
How successful are the OECD nations at expanding education opportunities to their residents? How is investing in education beneficial for individuals and societies - financially, socially, and culturally? How equitably are learning and job opportunities being distributed within countries? And over all, how are countries placed to meet the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals in education by 2030? Education at a Glance 2016: OECD Indicators offers a rich, comparable and up-to-date array of indicators measuring the current state of education internationally. As this edition shows, considerable progress has been achieved in the last years but accessible education remains a challenge for all countries:
A selection of indicators from Skills Matter: Further Results from the Survey of Adult Skills .
Adults who are highly proficient in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments, as measured by the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), are likely to be able to make the most of the opportunities created by the technological and structural changes modern societies are going through. Those who struggle to use new technologies are at greater risk of losing out. Adults with a higher proficiency tend to have not only better outcomes in the labour market than their less-proficient peers (in terms of employment and wages), but they also report better results in many aspects of individual well-being. Individuals with a higher proficiency in literacy report to be healthier, believe to have more impact on the political process, trust more in others, and participate more in volunteer or associative activities.
Skills measured in the survey are far from being equally distributed. In almost all countries/economies, around one in five adults has poor reading skills, one in four adults has no or only limited experience with computers or lacks confidence in their ability to use computers and nearly one in two adults have a low proficiency in problem solving in technology-rich environments. Various factors are associated with lower skills. One is age, older adults (55-65 year-olds) score lower in literacy than 25-34 year-olds. Moreover, gender gaps in proficiency – which are negligible in literacy and are slightly in favour of men in numeracy – are also more pronounced among older cohorts. Parents’ educational background, a proxy for socio-economic status, also exerts a significant influence on adults’ proficiency in literacy.
A selection of indicators from The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence, Education at a Glance 2015, PIAAC and TALIS.
Gender inequality in education and in the labour market is a reality and a challenge in various OECD countries. While girls perform better than boys in reading, they score lower in math, and lack self-confidence in scientific subjects. Such differences cannot be explained by differences in ability as girls in top-performing education systems score much higher in math than boys in most other OECD countries; the same is true for boys in reading. On the labour market, even though women outnumber men among university graduates, their employment rates and earnings lag behind those of men. Gender differences reported in student performance, graduation rates, employment rates, and earnings highlight the challenge faced by many governments to create more equal opportunities for boys and girls on many fronts. Policies that can help promote gender equality include: better teaching practices that encourage girls to be interested in science and maths and boys to read more; affordable childcare to allow more women to work full-time; and investment in education that translates into more equal employment conditions.