Measuring Innovation in Education

Rohan Roberts
Sapient Symbiosis
Published in
2 min readDec 11, 2019


Earlier this year, the OECD’s Centre for Educational Innovation and Research published their 2019 report, “Measuring Innovation in Education.

They define innovation as “a significant change in selected key practices in education.” They use the PISA, TIMSS, and PIRLS databases to cover and identify these key practices at the classroom or school levels.

The publication covers three other areas of interest:

  1. the availability of learning resources (books and ICT)
  2. teacher professional development practices (formal training and peer learning)
  3. external relations with stakeholders (parents, the public at large, other education agencies).

A major drawback about this publication is that it does not cover emerging/recently-introduced teaching practices such as flipped learning because “there is no international dataset covering the uptake of these practices.” So, in that sense, their use of the word “innovation” is slightly misleading. They actually say that they don’t assume that innovation is necessarily an improvement.

What they are measuring is “how much change students have experienced in their learning environment over a decade.” So, in a way, the report is a useful indicator to get a sense of what is mainstream/conventional practice and what is alternative practice.

Pedagogical innovation in mathematics, science and reading lessons is the main focus of the publication. On average, it has been moderate in the last decade. These are a few salient quotes that make for dismal reading:

  • “There is also little evidence that the curriculum emphasis on teaching the skills that will allow students to thrive in a world where innovation is critical have translated into different teaching and learning practices. This is worrisome in a world where artificial intelligence and robotics might transform the role of humans in the productive and social processes.”
  • There has been some rise in active learning, but what is troubling to note is that learning by memorising and drilling has also gone in an upward direction: “Memorising rules, procedures and facts in at least half of the maths and science lessons has gained ground.”
  • “In spite of the enhanced awareness of the need to develop students’ higher-order skills, there has been relatively little expansion in the practices trying to foster them.”
  • “Opportunities given to students to explain their ideas, draw conclusions or make inferences remained stable and concerned relatively few students.”

The report focuses mainly on the developed world, particularly, N. America, Europe, and Australia. No doubt, things would not be any better had they also focused on India, China, and Africa.



Rohan Roberts
Sapient Symbiosis

Director, SciFest Dubai | Director of Innovation and Future Learning, GEMS Education |