OECD Calls on All Countries to Bring Students up to Basic Skills by 2030

A new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) looks at the PISA scores not only in terms of how well students are performing in each country but also the economic implications. According to the study, if every 15-year old student reaches at least baseline Level 1 on the PISA scale, there would be significant benefits to sustainable economic growth.


  • The quality of schooling in a country is a powerful predictor of the wealth that countries will produce in the long run. For example, Ghana, which has the lowest PISA achievement levels for those in school would see a gain over 38 times its current GDP if all children born today were to meet the baseline level.
  • Many high-income oil countries that have succeeded in converting their natural capital into physical capital have not converted the physical capital into human capital that can generate a sustainable economic future. For many of these countries PISA shows a significantly negative relationship between the money countries earn from their natural resources and the knowledge and skills of their school population.
  • High income doesn’t protect against shortcomings in education. Twenty-four percent of U.S. 15-year olds do not complete even level 1 PISA tasks. If they all mastered basic skills, economic gains could be as much as USD 27 trillion in additional income over the students’ working lives.
  • Achieving basic skills would also make economic growth more inclusive, reducing income gaps and positively impacting society.
  • The report’s authors recognize that in addition to support from government institutions to fulfill this educational goal, the value of learning needs to be embraced by the population. Schools must expect every child to succeed and provide them with the tools to achieve their goals. As important, schools must nurture high-performing teachers and value their role.

“The message of these rather complex analyses is simple: there is no shortcut to improved learning outcomes in a post-2015 world economy where knowledge and skills have become the global currency, the key to better jobs and better lives,” writes Andreas Schleicher, Director of the Directorate for Education and Skills at OECD, in a blog post. “And there is no central bank that prints this currency. We cannot inherit this currency, and we cannot produce it through speculation; we can only develop it through sustained effort and investment in people.”

Read OECD (2015) Universal Basic Skills: What Countries Stand to Gain, OECD Publishing.

Education Policy