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March 28th, 2013
Educating for Application

I was recommended to a TED lecture called ‘use data to build better schools’ given by Andreas Schleicher.  Andreas is from an OECD funded organisation called PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment).  It was a great use of 15 mins and gave some great insights into the difference between access to education and equality of education, however, the initial hook for me was the approach that PISA has taken to measuring the outcomes of education systems globally.

Since the late 90’s PISA has been testing 15 year old children in 70+ national education systems on the core subjects of reading, mathematics, and science.  What is interesting is that they are testing not to see how much the students have learnt, but, can they use what they have learnt in school and apply that to real world problems.  The results aren’t aimed at telling the individual student how well they’ve done, but the results are drawn up to a national level, giving a different view of the effectiveness of the education system in comparison to other national systems.

The TED lecture gives a great insight into global education systems and how different countries have adopted different business models, and I’ll cover that in a separate post.

The ability to apply what we have been taught or learnt is a fundamental driver for innovation and a nation’s success.  What people often link is success with intellect, and which often comes from being taught through reference to the past.  For success in innovation, however, what is really required is an ability to think the unthinkable, make new connections, or take the past to a new place.  Therefore, the PISA approach to measuring a nation’s education system is potentially of far more relevance to the innovation world and to the possible future success of nations.

As with all statistical analysis the devil is in the detail as there are many interpretations that can be made.  What it does give is an insight, over time, into those nations that have been able to tune their education system to not only produce high-scoring students, but students that are better able to deploy the benefit of education dollars that have been invested in them.

It probably wouldn’t surprise you if I said that from the 2009 tests (the last published set) that Shanghai (China), Singapore, Japan, and Korea all scored well, however, New Zealand and Finland were up with the best.

It’s also possible to see over time the trends of which countries are improving, again the past data won’t surprise, however, if as organisations and innovators we want to be successful we will have to access the best talent by either picking locations for innovation projects or increasingly by tapping into the talent pool of people educated on a more global basis.

The successful innovators of the future will of course be using the data from the 2012 tests when available to look over the horizon at the countries that are improving rapidly or those that are yet to join the PISA project, such as those in Africa.

This article was previously posted by Kommercialize.

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