New data on the breadth of skills movement: Over 150 countries included

Editor's note:

This is the final update on the country mapping of online information on the breadth of skills movement across education systems throughout the world.

With rapid technological advances and changes in the global job market, students around the world require a more diverse skillset than ever before. To prepare students for the 21st century, many countries are adapting education policies to include the skills and competencies needed for contemporary and future challenges. The Skills for a Changing World project seeks to understand how countries globally are moving toward an explicit focus on breadth of skills. As part of this project, researchers at the Center for Universal Education at Brookings examined publicly available education policy documents to understand a country’s intention to help students develop breadth of skills.

Updated Findings

For the final update in this series, 21 countries were added to the global scan between June and August 2017 for a total of 152 countries. Figure 1 lists the 21 countries, which are also a part of the interactive map that provides a visualization of the breadth of skills movement.

Figure 1: 21 Countries added to the mapping database

New Countries Added
Angola Portugal
Armenia Saint Lucia
Aruba Serbia
Azerbaijan Seychelles
Guinea-Bissau Solomon Islands
Hungary St. Kitts & Nevis
Iceland Switzerland
Kosovo Thailand
Madagascar Togo
Mozambique Turks & Caicos Islands

Four sets of publicly available information (mission or vision statements, skills identified in policy documents, skills in curriculum, and skills progressions) provided evidence of a shift in education systems toward broadening their provision beyond academic subjects to include a wider range of skills. Of the 152 countries in the scan, 117 countries (76 percent) identify specific skills somewhere within their national policy documents, 71 (47 percent) within the curriculum, and 58 (38 percent) within mission and vision statements. As seen in Figure 2, fewer countries mention skills progressions, or the sequence of knowledge and understanding children develop as they progress through their education, which remains consistent with prior updates for the breadth of skills movement database.

While these findings show a trend in education around the world, countries differed in how consistently they mentioned skills across the four categories (Figure 3). Over half of the countries mention skills in two or three categories, 20 percent of the countries mention skills in one of the categories, and 18 percent of countries do not mention skills in any of the four categories. Of the 152 countries, only 6 percent meet the criteria for identifying skills within their vision or mission statement, policy documents, curriculum, and specifying skills progression.

The four most frequently identified skills within policy documents show that communication, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving continue to be the most cited (Figure 4), as was the case in the original report as well as all previous updates. In addition to these four skills, countries mentioned a wide range of other skills outside of the realm of literacy and numeracy, including information technology skills, social skills, and entrepreneurship.

This blog post completes our series on education systems’ online descriptions of aspirations for their students associated with breadth of skills. This large database of 152 countries has led us to the major finding that countries globally are moving toward an explicit focus on skills beyond academic ones. Countries vary in the consistency of skills identification across the four categories, with only 6 percent of the 152 countries mentioning the concept of skills progression or development. This may suggest that countries may be only beginning to develop approaches to teaching and integrating skills enhancement in their curricular and pedagogical practices. At Brookings, we are initiating new research to support and explore this development—focusing on describing the path individuals travel to develop their cognitive and social skills within the education context, and how knowledge of these paths will inform their integration in daily teaching.