Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría
Paris, France - 7 March 2019
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Minister Selçuk, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am delighted to welcome you to the OECD for this panel, Change Management in Education: Is Paradigm Shift Possible?, which will focus on Turkey’s 2023 Education Vision. Minister Selçuk, the OECD is delighted to host this discussion around your impressive commitment to strengthening Turkey’s education system.
The future of education is high on the agenda for all countries. Providing quality education and the right mix of skills is essential to prepare today’s children for tomorrow’s world and ensure inclusive and sustainable growth. In the rapidly-evolving context of big data, Artificial Intelligence, crypto-currencies and a radically different labour market, we have to ask ourselves the question: how can policymakers create the conditions needed for our children to thrive?
A key problem is that routine cognitive skills, which are easy to teach and easy to test, are also easy to digitalise, automate and outsource. In Turkey, recent OECD estimates show that almost 16% of jobs are at a high risk of automation over the next 15-20 years and another 43% of jobs risk significant changes to how they are carried out – and therefore to the skills they require.
Students will continue to need solid foundation skills in core cognitive domains such as reading, mathematics and science, there is no doubt about that. However, it is also clear that in the very near future it will be important to pair the Artificial Intelligence of computers with the cognitive, social and emotional skills, and values of human beings. It will be our imagination, our awareness and our sense of responsibility that will enable us to flourish in the labour market and harness digitalisation to shape the world for the better.
Most education systems already aim to develop children’s critical thinking, creativity and communication skills. This requires that teachers give children enough room to express and explain their ideas. In PISA 2006, we asked 15 year old students, “Do you get opportunities to do this in most or all of your lessons?”. Across OECD countries, only one in-five students said “yes”. In PISA 2015, we asked the same question, hoping that things might have improved. Once again, only one-in-five students said “yes”.
Clearly, much work remains to be done! However, progress is not easy.
The evolution of our societies has vastly outpaced the capacity of our current education systems to respond. Our current schools were invented in the industrial age when it was both effective and efficient to educate students in batches and to train teachers once for their entire working lives. This structure makes change in a fast-moving world far too slow.
To transform schooling at scale and at the necessary pace, we need not just a radical, alternative vision of what’s possible, but also smart strategies and effective institutions.
The challenge is to build on the expertise of our teachers and school leaders and enlist them in the design of superior policies and practices. A carefully crafted enabling environment can unleash teachers’ and schools’ ingenuity and build capacity for change.
However, teachers cannot do this alone. Developing the full skill set of learners requires a range of professionals. This is why teachers and schools need to embrace fully the role of ethical educators, collaborative learners, innovative designers, transformational leaders and community builders.
While managing change is a difficult endeavour, Turkey sets an impressive example.
Over past two decades, Turkey has achieved one of the fastest increases in education enrolment within the OECD. Participation in primary and lower secondary school caught up with the OECD average in 2010 and became universal by 2015. And, unlike in many other countries, increased access to education in Turkey has not come at the expense of quality. In fact, the share of Turkish students who do not acquire basic skills by age 15 has declined. Between 2003 and 2012, the percentage of students lacking basic proficiency in mathematics fell by 10 percentage points, one of the sharpest reductions across the OECD.
This progress is encouraging, but many challenges remain. While learning outcomes in Turkey are on par with other upper middle-income countries, they remain low compared to the OECD average. And they are a long way from what is required to meet Turkey’s economic and educational objectives. Results from PISA 2015 show that around half of Turkish 15-year-olds do not have basic reading, mathematics and science skills. Turkey’s education system is also marked by disparities. Students growing up in less developed regions are almost 20% more likely than their peers in the most developed regions to leave school before completing compulsory education.
Turkey’s 2023 Education Vision is a strong manifesto for change. The document provides a coherent set of policy goals that align with OECD core principles including equity, inclusiveness, quality and effectiveness, and reflect OECD good practices such as student agency, good governance in education and evidence-based decision-making.
Our analysis in the recently completed OECD Review of Student Assessment in Turkey supports this vision, recommending how instruction can be adapted to reflect individual student needs and interests better, and close the performance gap. Minister, please count on the OECD’s support as you move forward!
At the OECD, we understand very well why Turkey’s 2023 Education Vision notes that PISA offers only a partial picture of the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are important for success in tomorrow’s world. We are working hard to address that. Before the end of this year, we will be rolling out our first assessment of social and emotional skills, and we are very keen to work with Turkey as we strive to increase the emphasis on social and emotional skills in future PISA assessments.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Education prepares children for a lifetime journey. It equips them with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values for jobs, tasks and fulfilling lives that are unknown today. I hope that today’s panel discussion will provide us with different perspectives on how to achieve this and will help Turkey to bring to fruition its ambitious plan for reforms.Thank you.