THE BLOG
09/12/2013 08:54 GMT | Updated 05/02/2014 05:59 GMT

Teaching to the Test, or Teaching for Success?

As the late, great, Nelson Mandela said: 'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.'

So at face value, the results of the OECD's PISA survey out this week are concerning. Overall the UK ranked 26th out of 65 countries. We were 26th for maths, 23rd for reading and 21st for science. The results have led to political bickering between the Coalition and Labour, each blaming the other for the UK's results.

However, I can't help but wonder if these stats really mean anything. PISA results are based on a two hour test taken by students in 2012. In some countries, teachers actively prepare students for the exam. Can we really trust the results to be an accurate representation?

But more importantly, the survey doesn't consider the broader employability skills the education system should be developing to help young people into work. I have the same concerns about Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove's plans to scrap coursework and AS Levels in favour of a single end exam. Likewise, I worry about the concept of a standard end-test for apprenticeships.

In the OECD's recent Survey of Adult Skills, the key area for concern was the poor supply of skilled people entering the workforce compared to other countries. This issue is vital for the social and economic health of the country, so we need to see a relentless focus on preparing young people for the workplace. And we need to measure it effectively.

The OECD has said that in 2015, it'll broaden its remit to encompass projects, creativity and holistic thinking. This is a really positive step, and I hope that the results will provide better insight into which countries are truly providing the best education.

Core maths and English skills are certainly important, but our young people need more than that to succeed in the workplace. Global youth unemployment is a ticking time bomb that cannot be ignored.

Indeed Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director for Education at OECD said: 'The world economy doesn't pay you for what you know; it pays you for what you can do.' Sums it up perfectly.