Interview with Andreas Schleicher
Andreas Schleicher (Hamburg, 1964) is one of the worldwide most influential people on the quality of education systems. A statistician and education researcher, he has led the OECD’s Education and Skills section since 2012. Previously, he was Director of the Department for Education Indicators and Analysis. He coordinates the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) report, covering nearly 90 countries.
Here are some of his most relevant statements on educational quality and the competency-based approach to the curriculum.
What do you consider quality in education in the current situation, and what characteristic features should an education system have?
For me, quality in education means that students are prepared to live with themselves, others, and the planet. They should be able to think for themselves, but also to collaborate. Quality today is knowledge, competence, attitude and values. In the world we live in, quality in education is not about teaching students something but helping them develop a reliable compass and the tools to navigate with confidence in a world we cannot predict, a world that is uncertain and volatile.
The shift in focus from content to competencies in education is progressing – what should be considered in this transformation for a positive transition?
I think the need for competencies comes from the world we live in – can you extrapolate what you know and apply it to a new situation? This is what we have to take seriously.
We cannot change our curricular paradigms radically, from one day to the next, and expect immediate results. I think the important thing is not about more or less knowledge but about helping students rise beyond their ability by understanding the foundations of the relevant ideas of each discipline. It means teaching less with more depth and avoiding superficial teaching.
This way of teaching is much more difficult. It is not about making a radical transition. It is about gradually empowering teachers, supporting them, and moving from a model in which students are passive recipients of knowledge to one in which they are active co-creators. It is the most important thing.
You are a strong advocate that quality education for all is possible. How do education systems achieve this?
If you look at the most advanced education systems, you see that students’ success has little to do with their socio-economic background. There is an explanation for this. The traditional approach is based on a single model applied to all students. High-achieving education systems understand that different students learn differently. They try to cater to this diversity with differentiated educational practices, giving students different paces to engage in their learning and make progress.
There are students who have difficulties in some areas, and we need to give them extra support. This is very demanding for teachers; they need to understand that their students learn differently. They need to be able to master a wide repertoire of different pedagogical strategies.
We need to nurture the extraordinary talents of ordinary pupils. It is not a matter of classifying students who are very good at everything and separating them from those who are not.