Let’s Make 2014 the Year of Education

Over the holidays, I received a newsletter from one of the companies in our industry, and among the normal details of oil and gas prices, procurement news, and other related items, I found a link to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators. This yearly publication examines and analyzes the quality of learning outcomes, the policy and contextual issues factors that shape these outcomes, and the private and social return on investments in learning.

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Source: Business insider
The document is positively fascinating, and is filled with useful information for governments, think-tanks, students―and savvy businesses. Among its many, many insights, it ranks student performance―among more than 510,000 15-year-olds in participating countries―in mathematics, reading and science. The datafor the ranking comes from testing that participating countries conduct as part of the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

To put it mildly, the ranking of WPP’s home country (the USA) was dismal. Among the 65 countries included in the analysis, the USA ranked 36th―not even in the top 50%. That placed us between the Slovak Republic and Lithuania. To the USA’s credit,its scores had improved ever-so-slightly over 2012’s report, but that was scant comfort to me.

As wise old Benjamin Franklin once noted, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” WPP and its leadership (including me, of course) support that concept wholeheartedly. We engage in training our personnel, educating customers about the equipment they use, and investing in community activities that foster learning.

We educate customers, business partners and vendors about emerging trends in the industry, and we mentor them to achieving better results from their power generation equipment. In short, we are fully invested in education and learning, in all its facets.

The information in the OECD’s document is particularly disconcerting, given that the organization’s impetus came from a effort―in which the USA was a founding participant―to create an impartial entity that fostered global development. Of course, back then the USA had the best-educated young people in the world.

It’s no secret that the USA’s quality of education has been slipping. It’s been sliding since sometime in the 1980s, according to several reports that I found. I hope this report will jolt our citizens and representatives into action. In the meantime, I congratulate the world leaders.

China (including Hong Kong and Macao), Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Japan, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and the Netherlands―I am in awe of your achievements. Those countries that achieved significant improvement with this report, I applaud your efforts, as well.

If your firm is headquartered outside the USA, where does your country rank? Is your company doing anything to foster education and learning?Do you know what your elected representatives are doing?

Based on what I have discovered, you can bet I’ll be taking another look in 2014 at what WPP can do to help resolve this problem, both internally and through advocacy and outreach. It makes sense to me that if everyone in a position to make a difference actually works to attain that goal, we can bring up the education level of students everywhere. To quote another wise old man, Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Let’s do it!