Doc. 8539

21 September 1999


Contribution to the Assembly debate on the activities of OECD in 1998 in the field of education

Committee on Culture and Education

Rapporteur: Mr Georges Lemoine, France, Socialist Group


In order to prepare this opinion I visited OECD on 2 September 1999 for an exchange of views with Mr B. McGaw, Deputy Director for Education of the Directorate of Education, Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, Mr A. Hasan, Head of Education and Training Division and Mr I. Whitman, Administrator of the Division of Non-member Economies and International Migration. I should like to thank them for their co-operation and for the useful information they provided.

      The Committee on Culture and Education of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has several reasons to look into the educational activities of OECD.

      First of all, at the start of a new millennium the Committee would like to highlight the main problems and the perspectives for development in the field of education. As OECD is one of the main partners in European co-operation on education, it is important to identify the new educational strategies of this organisation.

      We would also like to reinforce the idea given in Mr Townend’s report and to stress that European countries should not only invest in education, but should create all the necessary conditions for young people to implement their knowledge and skills.

Educational activities of OECD

      The educational activities of OECD are concentrated on the interaction of education and learning with the labour market and the economic policies of different countries and are covered by the Education Committee (EDC), the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) as well as decentralised programmes: the Programme on Educational Building (PEB), Institutional Management in Higher Education (IMHE) and the Centre of Co-operation with Non-Members (CCNM).

      The last OECD Education Committee meeting at ministerial level, held in January 1996, adopted OECD’s five year mandate that will expire by the year 2001. The main task for the educational strategies of OECD is to make lifelong learning a reality for all. The ministers also decided to develop a monitoring tool to take stock of the present situation in educational policies of the member states and to track progress toward the realisation of lifelong learning for all.

      The OECD’s economic approach to education is a response to two factors. First, is the increased demand for skills and knowledge by employers in the highly scientifically and technologically developed society. The second is the demand for a continued renewal and updating of these skills and knowledge in response to technological developments. That is why the educational activities of OECD put emphasis on the link of education with the working world and on the importance of the incorporation of employability into the learning process to an increased extent than in the past.

      One of the major educational activities of OECD, implemented through the EDC, is a review of the national educational policies of member countries. These reviews identify weak points in educational systems that require the attention of policy-makers. The reviews of the educational policies of the Russian Federation and Slovenia were published in 1998.

      The OECD’s Education Committee is also preparing a multi-country thematic review of the first years of tertiary education.

      A thematic review of the transition from initial education to working life is another EDC programme. In 1998, an interim report from the first stage of the thematic review was presented to the Education Committee. The aims of it are to describe those educational, labour and social policies that lead to successful transition. In the framework of this activity an international meeting of Education and Labour Ministers on youth and transition issues will be held in the United Kingdom in February 2000 and a final conference on the thematic review will be held in Austria in May 2000.

      In 1998, the CERI programme had a number of objectives, aiming at developing and analysing education statistics and indicators: to identify key features of schooling for tomorrow, in particular the role of information and communications technology (ICT) in education and learning; to understand the role of R&D in education, learning economies and knowledge societies; to evaluate significant innovations of “What Works”; to analyse education and other innovative strategies for social inclusion and to develop new dissemination strategies.

      The 1998 edition of "Education at a Glance", a publication prepared by the Statistic and Indicators Division of the OECD Directorate for Education, Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, provided an up-to-date array of indicators on the transition from school to work and on tertiary education. Information on several non-member European countries enriched this edition through the “World Education Indicators” programme. A complement to this publication, the Educational Policy Analysis 1998 report, looked at the experiences and policies in OECD Member countries regarding access and participation in education and training as well as changes in the teaching process and new roles for teachers.

      The international Programme on Educational Building (PEB) is a decentralised programme which was created under the mandate of the Education Committee to promot the exchange of ideas, information, research and experience in the field of educational facilities. This programme is financed by national governments, regional and provincial governments and research organisations. The main priority of this programme, defined during in June 1998, consists in the need to rethink educational facilities in response to the challenges of the information society and the growth of lifelong learning.

      In working on the facilities for the school of the future the PEB is analysing more specifically how the use of personal computers is affecting the demand for, and the use of, space in educational institutions. It is also dealing with the response of tertiary education institutions to rapid expansion of students numbers and changes in the delivery of learning and the diversification of course offerings. Another important working area of the PEB relates to effective management and utilisation of educational facilities. This programme includes also a study on how good design and management can contribute to the effectiveness of schools and other educational institutions.

      The decentralised programme on Institutional Management in Higher Education (IMHE) is monitoring developments in higher education and assists institutions, ministries and governments, through the sharing of information, experiences and expertise, in addressing the quality assurance, human resources, funding and internationalisation of higher education. Three major IMHE projects (on the contribution of higher education institutions to meeting regional needs; on quality assurance in international education; and on management development in central and eastern European countries) came to a conclusion in 1998.

      By the end of 1998, twenty-two seminars, workshops and conferences had been organised by IMHE in co-operation with other organisations or institutions of higher education. The 1998 IMHE General Conference, on "The Lifelong Learning Challenge for Higher Education: Competition or Co-operation", was held in September. A general agreement was reached during the Conference on the need for greater response to the demand for lifelong learning.

      The 1999-2000 IMHE programme of work includes three new projects in addition to other activities outside the project framework. The chosen themes are intended to meet the needs of IMHE member institutions identified during the 1998 General Conference. The project "Trends in Research Management and Support" aims to identify key issues and questions of practice which relate to the challenges of managing research in different countries, assess different approaches which impact the overall functioning of the universities, and subsequently to propose ways in which universities can best respond to the local, regional and global demands on university research. "Governance and Leadership" is a project aiming to provide a better understanding of the changes in governance and decision-making taking place at the institutional level within a context of shifting national policies for higher education. The aims of the project "Institutional Response to Students as Customers" is to provide institutions with a range of information on the effects of the emergence of “students as consumers” on programmes, teaching and learning, as well as on the management arrangements and services which support needed changes. The work on these projects should be completed before the end of the current IMHE mandate in 2001.

      Several programmes for OECD non-member countries such as Russia, the Baltic states, Slovenia., are carried out by the Centre for Co-operation with Non-Members. Currently the Centre is preparing reviews of the educational policies of the Baltic States and Romania.

      In 1998 several studies were prepared by the Organisation to show how lifelong learning strategies are implemented in different countries.

Co-operation between the Council of Europe and OECD

The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly serves as a parliamentary forum for OECD, and delegations from all the OECD countries participate in its debates on an equal footing.

The OECD Directorate for Education, Employment, Labour and Social Affairs and the Council of Europe Directorate for Education, Culture and Sport have regular intersecretariat contacts to discuss the activities of each organisation in the field of education.

OECD was represented at the plenary session of the Higher Education and Research Committee (CC-HER), Strasbourg, 25-27 March 1998.

The OECD Development Centre took part in the Intercontinental Round Table on Global Education, organised by the North-South Centre in Lisbon on 11 May, 1998 and it also participated in various meetings of the International Organising Committee of the Council of Europe Campaign on “global interdependence and solidarity: Europe against poverty and social exclusion.

In its turn, the Council of Europe secretariat was represented at the OECD Educational Committee, which took place in Paris on 19-21 November 1998. A joint intersecretariat meeting was organised on this occasion.

Co-operation has been established between the Council of Europe Section for Bilateral Co-operation and Technical Assistance of the Educational Department and the Secretariat of the OECD Education Committee and IMHI and has been primarily focused on the sharing of information and experience on the reform of educational law and policy in Eastern European countries and on the diversification of tertiary education.


Both OECD and the Council of Europe are working actively to develop the strategies for lifelong learning for all. Social problems as growing unemployment, widening earning gaps, exclusion of young and disadvantaged people can be combated only by the joint effort of governments, international and non-governmental organisations in the promotion of education beyond traditional schooling throughout life. This was also stressed in Resolution 1193 (1999) on second-chance schools (Rapporteur: Mr Kollwelter), which was adopted by the Assembly this year and invited all European countries to improve the integration prospects of young people excluded from the labour market by implementing pilot projects on second-chance schools.

During the last few years OECD has been very involved in the assessment of educational policies of its non-member countries, which can be explained by the necessity to prepare these countries for the challenges of open societies. The Council of Europe, which is pursuing the same task in its educational programmes should make use of OECD involvement in this area and try to find mutual beneficial ways of co-operation.

      The present co-operation between the Secretariats of the organisations is primarily based on personal relationship and informal contacts. Formal co-operation is limited to mutual representation. However while the Council of Europe has been represented in OECD Education Committee meeting in 1999, OECD was only represented in the Higher Education and Research Committee (CC-HER) and not the Council for Cultural Co-operation (CDCC) or the Education Committee (CC-ED). The main obstacles to closer co-operation include tight budgets, lack of contacts between committees and the difference in the status of the countries of Eastern Europe as member states in the Council of Europe and non-members in OECD.

      During the last few years, OECD has been very involved in the assessment of educational policies of its non-member countries, which can be explained by the necessity to prepare these countries for the challenges of open economies. The Council of Europe is also examining education policy and legislation in the same Central and East European countries, but from a less market oriented perspective. These approaches are complementary and could favour the development of joint projects bringing in OECD economic and labour market expertise and Council of Europe law and policy expertise with both organisations focusing on human rights and democracy. Partnership could be promoted between the Council of Europe educational programmes and the OECD Decentralised Programme on Institutional Management in Higher Education (IMHE).

      Such co-operation should be envisaged for the Council of Europe project on “Lifelong learning for social cohesion”. Other common themes for co-operation could be the transition from initial education to working life; the role of information and communication technology in education and learning; the analysis of education and innovative strategies for social inclusion; the financing of lifelong learning.

The two organisations should continue to exchange information and should explore the possibilities of regular expert exchanges.

      On the basis of the above, the Committee would like to propose an amendment to the preliminary draft resolution of the report by the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development, proposing to insert after 18 a new paragraph, reading as follows:

      “The enlarged Assembly welcomes the accent of OECD educational programs on lifelong learning for all, as an important condition of future economic prosperity, social and political cohesion and the achievement of genuinely democratic societies. It encourages the partnership between OECD and the Council of Europe in exploring issues such as the transition from initial education to working life; the role of information and communication technology in education and learning; the analysis of education and innovative strategies for social inclusion and the financing of lifelong learning. It also encourages the exchange of information and experiences in developing national educational policies and co-operation on appropriate specific projects”. Rep

Reporting committee: Committee on Economic Affairs and Development

Committee for opinion: Committee on Culture and Education

Reference to committee: permanent mandate.

Contribution approved by the committee on 21 September 1999

Secretaries to the committee: Mr Ary, Mrs Theophilova-Permaul, Ms Kostenko