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Education in an Uncertain World

The global commitment to universal education has accomplished wonders. But there is much more to be done in the decades to come, as education becomes less about imparting knowledge and more about providing students with the skills to navigate rapid technological change.

PARIS – Until the Industrial Revolution, neither formal education nor advances in technology made much of a difference for the vast majority of people. But as technological progress accelerated, education failed to keep pace, leaving vast numbers of people struggling to adapt to a rapidly changing world and contributing to widespread suffering.

It took a century for public policy to respond with an effort to provide universal access to schooling. In recent decades, remarkable strides have been made toward realizing that ambition worldwide. But in an era when technological innovation is once again outpacing education, the effort to provide everybody with an opportunity to learn must not only be redoubled; it must also be retooled for an increasingly unstable and volatile world.

Access to education has been significantly broadened. The world is no longer rigidly divided between rich, well-educated countries and poor, badly educated ones. The quality of schooling remains a powerful predictor of national income over the long term, and many low-income countries have begun leveraging education in the service of economic development. As a result, among 80 countries with comparable data on the quality of learning, GDP per capita now explains only 6% of the variation in performance.

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