Land of the long-term view

New Zealand ahead in equip­ping stu­dents with skills for the fu­ture

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - El­lie.both­well@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­

New Zealand and Canada have been sin­gled out as the coun­tries that best pre­pare stu­dents for the fu­ture, in a ma­jor study that as­sesses the “ef­fec­tive­ness” of ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems.

The World­wide Ed­u­cat­ing for the Fu­ture In­dex, pro­duced by the Econ­o­mist In­tel­li­gence Unit for the Yi­dan Prize Foun­da­tion, eval­u­ates ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems in 35 coun­tries across 16 in­di­ca­tors, which cover the ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy en­vi­ron­ment, teach­ing en­vi­ron­ment and so­cioe­co­nomic en­vi­ron­ment.

The re­port, which cov­ers ed­u­ca­tion between ages 15 and 24, con­cen­trates on “in­puts” such as gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­ture on post­sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion, the qual­ity of teacher ed­u­ca­tion, cul­tural di­ver­sity and tol­er­ance, as op­posed to “out­puts” such as test scores, in or­der to judge how stu­dents are be­ing read­ied to master “in­ter­per­sonal, prob­lem-solv­ing and crit­i­cal-think­ing skills, and nav­i­gate an in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal and au­to­mated world”.

When all three en­vi­ron­ments are con­sid­ered, small and rich coun­tries gen­er­ally come out top; the five high­est ranked are New Zealand, Canada, Fin­land, Switzer­land and Sin­ga­pore. The UK is sixth over­all, while the US is 12th.

New Zealand also comes top in the teach­ing en­vi­ron­ment cat­e­gory, which ac­counts for 50 per cent of the over­all score.

The An­tipodean na­tion earned full marks for its cur­ricu­lum frame- work for fu­ture skills, the ef­fec­tive­ness of its pol­icy im­ple­men­ta­tion sys­tem, teacher ed­u­ca­tion, gov­ern­ment ed­u­ca­tion ex­pen­di­ture, ca­reer coun­selling in schools, col­lab­o­ra­tion between uni­ver­si­ties and industry, and cul­tural di­ver­sity and tol­er­ance, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

“The rea­sons be­hind this suc­cess are twofold. Firstly, New Zealand views ed­u­cat­ing for fu­ture skills as a broadly-agreed strate­gic im­per­a­tive: it is a small and re­mote coun­try, with the vig­i­lance that comes with know­ing that it has lit­tle choice but to be glob­ally com­pet­i­tive,” ac­cord­ing to the study.

“Se­condly, it has a sys­tem­atic gov­ern­ment-led ap­proach to mak­ing its ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem fit for pur­pose, across tech­nol­ogy, teach­ing, cur­ricu­lum and col­lab­o­ra­tion with industry.”

Sin­ga­pore comes top when coun­tries are as­sessed only on their ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy en­vi­ron­ment, while Fin­land takes first place for so­cioe­co­nomic en­vi­ron­ment.

But, more than half of the economies in the in­dex are fail­ing to in­vest in or ef­fec­tively as­sess skills needed for the fu­ture, it is claimed.

The study high­lights Tai­wan, which comes 19th over­all de­spite its rep­u­ta­tion for strong teach­ing in STEM dis­ci­plines, and the “start-up na­tion” Is­rael, which is 26th, as “prom­i­nent dis­ap­point­ments”.

The two coun­tries sup­ply­ing the largest pool of work­ers in the world, In­dia and China, are also be­low av­er­age (at 29th and 31st re­spec­tively).

In con­trast, Ar­gentina, which is 20th in the rank­ing, is sin­gled out as a coun­try that is punch­ing above its weight. The Latin Amer­i­can coun­try is the high­est-ranked mid­dle-in­come na­tion in the ta­ble, and is show­ing signs of progress in ar­eas such as qual­ity of teacher ed­u­ca­tion and qual­i­fi­ca­tions, ed­u­ca­tion ex­pen­di­ture, and cur­ricu­lum and as­sess­ment frame­works, ac­cord­ing to the re­search.

The study also found that there is a strong cor­re­la­tion between so­ci­eties that are open and those that pre­pare their young peo­ple ef­fec­tively for an un­cer­tain fu­ture.

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