Ten Problems for Education in the 2020s

Literature Review: Education Problems for the 202os

Governments are increasingly looking to international comparisons of education problems, opportunities and outcomes as they develop policies to enhance individuals’ social and economic prospects, provide incentives for greater efficiency in schooling, and help to mobilize resources to meet rising demands. Education at a Glance 2019 [1] addresses the needs of a range of users, from governments seeking to learn policy lessons to academics requiring data for further analysis to the general public wanting to monitor how their countries’ schools are progressing in producing world-class students. The publication examines the quality of learning outcomes, the policy levers and contextual factors that shape these outcomes, and the broader private and social returns that accrue to investments in education.

The Condition of Education 2019 [2] is a congressionally mandated annual report summarizing the latest data on education in the United States. This report is designed to help policymakers and the public monitor educational progress. The report includes 48 indicators on topics ranging from prekindergarten through post-secondary education, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons. The top ranking of 15-year-old students on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) science literacy scale 2015, by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with 73 countries assessed, was in this order: Singapore, Japan, Estonia, Chinese Taipei, Finland, Macau (China), Canada, Vietnam, Hong Kong (China), B-S-J-G (China), with the United States ranked 25th.

The Education and Training Monitor 2019 [3] from Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture of the European Commission includes twenty-eight individual European Union country reports. It builds on the most up-to-date quantitative and qualitative evidence to present and assess the main recent and ongoing policy measures in each EU Member State: a statistical overview of the main education and training indicators; the main strengths and challenges of the country’s education and training system; teachers and challenges of teaching profession; investment in education and training; policies to modernize early childhood and school education; measures to modernize higher education; vocational education and training; adult learning.

UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office developed the Programme Guidance ‘Adolescents’ Potential Unleashed: Improving Second-Decade Education and Learning in East Asia and the Pacific’ [4] to help UNICEF Country Offices to define clear priorities, strategies and interventions to address these challenges around adolescents’ education and learning. The guidance suggests the definition of data-driven and evidence-based programming, embracing innovations, promising partnerships and cross-sectoral work to strengthen the education system and alternative modalities to foster adolescents’ learning and skills. It suggests a strong equity and gender focus.

The Stepping Up – Refugee Education in Crisis report [5] tells the stories of some of the world’s 7.1 million refugee children of school age under UNHCR’s mandate. In addition, it looks at the educational aspirations of refugee youth eager to continue learning after secondary education, and highlights the need for strong partnerships in order to break down the barriers to education for millions of refugee children. Education data on refugee enrollments and population numbers is drawn from UNHCR’s population database, reporting tools and education surveys and refers to 2018. Where this data is not available, it has been estimated on the basis of available age disaggregated data. The report also references global enrollment data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics referring to 2017.

Starting from such general references, this booklet identifies ten relevant areas from very recent contributions put forward at academic level in the form journal articles, conference proceedings and students theses. Ten freely accessible internet references have been selected for each area and direct links are provided at the end of each chapter for own consultation. Our selected references do not intend to mirror ranking indexes nor establish novel classifications. On the contrary, they are meant to represent peer-reviewed, diverse and scientifically-sound case studies for vertical dissemination aimed at non-specialist readers. They will also be able to scoop even more references through the bibliography that is reported at the end of each selected reference.

Without further ado, these are the “Ten Problems for Education in the 2020s” that we are going to introduce in this booklet:

  1. funding, 
  2. safety,
  3. technology,
  4. standardization,
  5. teachers,
  6. lifelong learning,
  7. diversity,
  8. creativity,
  9. accreditation,
  10. new trends.

Each problem has its own dedicated chapter made of an introductory section, a short presentation of the ten selected references and a conclusions section.

The final chapter of this booklet will report the conclusions from each chapter again in order to provide a complete executive summary.


[1] OECD, “Education at a Glance 2019”, 2019, OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris, , online at 

[2] J. McFarland et al., “The Condition of Education 2019”, NCES 2019-144, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, online at 

[3] Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, “Education and Training Monitor 2019 – Country analysis”, 2019, European Commission, doi: 10.2766/397742 , online at 

[4] F. Benavides et al. , “Improving Second-Decade Education and Learning in East Asia and the Pacific”, 2019, UNICEF , online at 

[5] F. Grandi et al., “Stepping Up – Refugee Education in Crisis”, 2019, UNHCR, online at

“Ten Problems for Education in the 2020s” booklet for Amazon Kindle, 2020; click on the cover to go to the dedicated Amazon listing page

By TenProblems

Literature Reviews for Inquisitive Minds

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