What do you understand by future-relevant competencies? 

Future-relevant competencies enable people to express their full potential and contribute to the sustainable development of their communities and the wider world. In our work on the OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030, we have identified three transformative competencies:

  1. creating new value;
  2. reconciling tensions and dilemmas; and
  3. taking responsibility.

Students who learn to create new value engage in activities in which they have to challenge their routines and search for their own solutions. This practice helps students see opportunities for improvement in their everyday life, and prepares them for an adult life in which they will have to adapt to changing labour markets, create jobs for others and contribute to solving today’s social challenges. Reconciling tensions and dilemmas means understanding that multiple and often conflicting ideas and positions exist, and at the same time being a critical consumer of information. Learning to take responsibility involves acquiring awareness of the consequences of one’s actions, searching for purpose, and feeling empowered to take action to improve other people’s lives.

These three competences provide education stakeholders a reliable compass in the quest for an education that prepares students for their future and serves our collective needs. Many educators believe that an important part of their job is to help their students become creative, open, critical and responsible. However, disagreement exists on whether these transversal competences should be a primary objective of schooling or rather be the responsibility of parents. Some people think that engaging time and resources to help students develop transformative competences could distract from the goal of achieving foundational literacies, such as reading and mathematics. In my opinion, a compromise isn’t necessary: during school hours, students can acquire disciplinary knowledge, while also develop holistically. With that being said, it is important to acknowledge the complex nature of educating for future readiness, which requires significant preparation from educators, in addition to resources and support at the system level. This debate continues partly because we are not equipped with quality data on students’ progress in the development of these competences and in turn, we cannot adequately identify ways to help them move forward (without losing track of disciplinary knowledge).


Will PISA change the focus from the central performance dimensions to a broader understanding of competencies in the coming years? 

The PISA global rankings are widely used to define the extent to which education systems are successful. We must therefore be mindful of the risk that some decision makers will limit the focus of schooling to the three subjects assessed in the PISA test (i.e. mathematics, science and reading). This is not the intention of PISA, which does not claim to measure all of the skills that matter for students of the 21st century. Extracting meaning from and critically interpreting a text, and using the tools of science and mathematics to understand the world are two examples of essential competences that will be worth assessing through PISA in the next decade. However, there are other important competences that are at the core of a good education, and many of these cut across the traditional subjects. The challenge is that these tranversal competences are much more difficult to measure than mathematics or language.

PISA thus needs to explore ways to expand its focus, while preserving its quality standards and recognising that not all competences can be measured well with a short, standardised test on a computer (other methods of assessment must complement what PISA already achieves). For a number of years we have tried to attain this goal through the PISA innovative domains (problem solving in 2012, collaborative problem solving in 2015, and global competence in 2018). Next year, PISA will administer an assessment of creative thinking that consists entirely of open challenges for which there is no single correct response.

Through this process, we have gained awareness of the limits to what we can assess using traditional testing methods. We now have a better understanding of the ways in which we can use technology to design extended performance tasks that replicate authentic situations and generate evidence not just on what students know, but also on how they think and manage their learning, including their motivation and emotions. For PISA 2025, we are developing an assessment of ‘Learning in the Digital World’, which aims to provide a multi-dimensional description of students’ readiness to learn with digital tools.

In recent years, we have changed the way we work by looking outside the traditional PISA world for new ideas. The PISA team based in Paris is rather small, but we collaborate with a large group of partners from civil society, including a coalition of four German Foundations (Bertelsmann Stiftung, Bosch Stiftung, Mercator Stiftung and Deutsche Telekom Stiftung). Thanks to these institutions, we have initiated a comprehensive research and development (R&D) programme that brings together some of the world’s leading experts in the learning sciences, assessment and learning analytics. The combination of PISA stakeholders, civil society and diverse expertise across disciplines has proven to be very powerful. For instance, we are creating a new system, the Platform for Innovative Learning Assessment (PILA), that will allow us to push the boundaries by rapidly prototyping new tasks and technologies and validating them with teachers and students in multiple countries. PILA will be freely available for use in the classroom, and will include resources to support teachers’ use of our measurement frameworks and open-source technology. We are in the second year of this collaborative project on innovating assessment, and so far the journey has been an exciting one.


What role will social and emotional competencies play in this?

Social and emotional competences are at the core of future readiness. Consider the goal of educating today’s students so they can create new value: any creative act requires curiosity to imagine what is possible, perseverance to make multiple attempts, and the willingness to seek feedback. Cognitive, social and emotional capacities build on each other and define who we are and what we can do. Our socio-emotional foundations also help us navigate life challenges, like the current crisis. Socio-emotional development is now a target of several national curricula, and many schools evaluate their students not just on their academic performance, but also on how well they collaborate with others, manage their emotions, and other socio-emotional skills.

This increasing centrality generates a demand for adequate assessment measures. If we cannot measure socio-emotional competences, then they will not find the space they deserve in everyday teaching and learning. In PISA and the OECD Study on Socio-Emotional Skills, we ask students to report the extent to which they believe a series of statements describes them well. These self-reported measures are based on research, but have limitations. It is thus important that we experiment with new methods for which technology can be particularly helpful. For example, research has led to sophisticated algorithms that can infer the emotional state of students from facial expressions. Natural language processing can help us infer important social attitudes from automated analysis of conversations between students. These measures will take time to develop and validate across different contexts. However, by pooling research efforts and exchanging ideas across borders, the field of assessment can take big steps forward.



Four foundations together are funding the OECD project „Innovative Domain Assessments in PISA” for the development of new methods of measuring 21st century competences: Deutsche Telekom Stiftung, Robert Bosch Stiftung, Stiftung Mercator and Bertelsmann Stiftung. The results of the project will be used for the first in PISA 2025.