Andreas Schleicher: Education donors have homework to do

Andreas Schleicher, director for the Directorate of Education and Skills at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, speaks at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photo by: Jeff Tyson / Devex

Put two physicists together from anywhere in the world, and they’ll have a common language through which to communicate. The math, metrics and paradigms are standard. Education, however, toes to the other extreme: even professionals from the same city can struggle to understand one another’s methods.

The international community lacks a common language to talk about education, and donors are often part of the problem — working with their own instruments and metrics, said Andreas Schleicher, director for the Directorate of Education and Skills at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, on Sunday.

A physicist and a statistician who helped develop the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment, Schleicher said donor’s inconsistency with metrics is complicating efforts to improve education and causing unnecessary confusion in countries that receive outside aid.

“There is a lot of homework that donors themselves can do to establish more coherence, more consistency,” Schleicher said at the Global Education and Skill Forum in Dubai, responding to a question from Devex.

Donors’ metrics are often shaped by their own ideas about best practices in education.

“Many donors actually have their language, their own metrics, their own instruments, and rather than thinking you know how can we serve this country to become part of the global community to connect with other countries, promote very specific kind of visions and ideas,”  he said.

And whereas wealthy countries set their own education policies, many developing countries are dependent on “funds that come with particular visions and ideas,” he said. “I think that’s part of the big challenges that those countries face, that they have this plethora of interest groups.”

Donors should “look more carefully at … the needs and interests of the communities they serve,” he said.

Schleicher said he is encouraged by the Sustainable Development Goals and that if the international community can “operationalize them intelligently,” the SDGs could help to provide the “overarching framework” that education needs.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Varkey Foundation financially and logistically supported the reporter’s travel to Dubai to attend the Global Education and Skills Forum. Nonetheless, Devex retains full editorial independence and responsibility for this content.

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About the author

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    Jeff Tyson

    Jeff is a former global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid, and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the U.S., and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.