Report on the14th OECD/Japan Seminar: Education Reform in the 21st century
–Learning from "Strong Performers and Successful Reformers"-

 The 14th OECD/Japan Seminar co-sponsored by the OECD and MEXT was held on June 28th and 29th 2011. Every year, education ministers, policy-makers and researchers from Japan and all over the world gather to discuss the topical education policy issues. This year's seminar title was "Strong Performers and Successful Reformers - Lessons from PISA." This was 6 months after the results of PISA 2009 were announced and immediately after the PISA 2009 digital reading literacy results were announced. The first day was attended by 380 people, including 90 participants from overseas.

 The seminar, focusing on PISA as its main theme, did not revolve around the discussion of ranking, superiority and inferiority of member states. Rather, the seminar highlighted the transition of education policies in each country and the common challenges perceived through PISA as one barometer. Guest speakers were of diverse backgrounds; from Canada, Singapore, Shanghai, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Indonesia, the U.K., the U.S. and Japan. The OECD and Pearson Foundation jointly developed a DVD with the same title as the seminar which showed images of schools and comments from key persons in reform in various countries, including those of the speakers.

 I want to report on two intriguing observations.
The first is the universal challenge in education which was confirmed among the participants. Every nation is now confronted with the challenge of responding to the urgent need of nurturing the skills that are critical for the 21st century and how to integrate this into education. As Michael Fullan, a researcher and Special Advisor to the Premier and Minister of Education in Ontario, Canada said, every country sets "higher order skills" as the key agenda for education policies. Nevertheless, when it comes to the standard, assessment and the instructions for acquiring those skills, they have yet to be materialized. Listening to his message, I felt that CRET's mission is to contribute in this area.

 The second key observation is the common understanding that the key driver of education reform is the professional community of teachers and education experts. The first challenge is how to attract competent students into the teaching profession. This is a recruitment issue. On this agenda, two contrasting cases were introduced at the seminar. One was from Finland and another from the U.K. The Finnish example shows that teachers are given high social status and only those who are selected from among competent candidates are able to pursue a teacher training course. On the other hand, in the U.K., teachers and students were recruited by advertisements like TV commercials, which were made through market research and segmentation.

 Moreover, in addition to the excellence of individual teachers, the importance of the teaching profession as a team was also presented. Vivien Stewart from the Asia Society headquartered in N.Y., said, the U.S. should learn from Asia as to the high quality of teachers and culture of teamwork. She touched upon the Japanese culture of "lesson study" where teachers exchange comments on each other's classroom teaching. Michael Fullan also showed nations with success stories of education reform, and commented that social capital, such as interactions among teachers and peer learning drives human capital, the quality of each teacher. He emphasized the importance of building the relationship between and among teachers within schools and with other schools.

 The OECD has been an active advocate of education policies based on international assessment. It is noteworthy that the OECD has extended its focus on actions taken by schools and by teachers.

(Reiko Nakata, CRET Researcher)

Other Researcher


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Areas of Reasearch in CRET

This laboratory conducts research on test evaluation and analysis. We also perform joint research and exchange programs with overseas testing research institutes.

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This laboratory conducts research and development into testing approaches that measure communication skills, teamwork skills, and social skills, etc.

Dr. Atsushi Aikawa

Faculty of Human Sciences,
University of Tsukuba
Ph.D. in Psychology

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This laboratory conducts research on the foundation of computer-based testing, and basic research on media and recognition, as well as applied and practical research
that utilize such knowledge.

Dr. Kanji Akahori

Professor Emeritus of
Tokyo Institute of

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