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The Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) plan is an ongoing national policy for educational inclusion. It targets disadvantaged children through a standardised system that identifies each school’s socio-economic level. Resources and support are then offered to schools, school clusters and/or communities through an integrated School Support Programme based on their level of need. Initiatives include: early childhood education, targeted student-teacher ratios, the professionalisation of school leaders and teachers, access to an administrative principal, measures to target deficits in literacy and numeracy, additional funding for books and libraries, guidance counselling, and facilitated access to higher education.

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Since the 1980s, the Finnish system of accountability was redeveloped entirely from the bottom up. Teacher candidates are selected, in part, according to their capacity to convey their belief in the core mission of public education in Finland, which is deeply humanistic as well as civic and economic. The preparation they receive is designed to build a powerful sense of individual responsibility for the learning and well-being of all the students in their care. During their careers, they must combine the roles of researcher and practitioner. Teachers in Finland are not only expected to become familiar with the knowledge base in education and human development, but are also required to write a research-based thesis as the final requirement for the Master’s degree.

 

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The Italian government passed the Buona Scuola (Good School) reform in 2015 to improve secondary education and better share education opportunities across the country. This comprehensive reform includes a decree for implementing an integrated system of education and instruction from birth to 6 years. It also gives more autonomy to schools, introduces stronger accountability for school principals and in teacher evaluations, and offers performance-based bonuses to teachers. These initiatives are implemented in schools from early childhood education and care through to secondary school.


It is too early to examine successes as programmes are still being developed and implemented. A nation-wide survey will be conducted to measure satisfaction every two years. The Strategy is expected to spur learning opportunities for people with weak labour market performance. Plans include changes in: assessment and evaluation principles, teacher training, content and volume of education programmes, and educational research. The government will work in co-operation with employers to better match skills learned at school to employer needs. The Adult Education Act sets quality standards and increases the visibility of adult training. The legislative base for launching a co-ordinated system that includes future skills forecasting and matching with labour market needs was also created.


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Under this system, employers cover the costs of training in the workplace, while the schools maintain the responsibility of teaching theoretical and general subjects. To encourage employers to provide a high-quality experience for students and best match needed skills to education, a number of incentives and control mechanisms have been put in place. These include per-student tax exemptions for employers, direct employer influence on educational content at the school level, certifications for employers entering the dual system to confirm their ability to provide training, and control of educational and training processes in the workplace by designated employees of the partner school, and external control by the State Inspectorate.

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Sweeping reforms soon followed after a national debate on how to best address the needs of students and teachers. Among the most successful was the creation of school clusters which bring between 5-10 schools together under a single educational project. Working together, the Ministry of Education and municipalities create clusters considering unique characteristics specific to school sizes, student needs, as well as geographical and demographic factors. By broadening the number of available staff and facilities, school clusters have helped improve the services and support available to students.

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Shortcomings in Portugal’s education system were brought to light following the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results in 2000. Key challenges were concentrated in primary schools in rural areas, and in town and cities, many schools were overcrowded putting stress on teachers. Limited resources and strain on schools resulted in many disadvantaged students in repeating grades and even dropping out of school.