The OECD and IELS: Redefining early childhood education for the 21st century

Euan Douglas AULD, Paul MORRIS

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has unveiled plans to move into the field of early childhood education through the introduction of the International Early Learning Study (IELS), a new comparative test of five-year olds that is being piloted in three nations. This article explores the dynamics of this new project and serves three purposes. First, we situate IELS within the OECD's broader agenda in education governance, and with regard to its existing comparative assessments, namely the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Second, we identify the main commentaries and critiques of the OECD's activity and assessments, specifically relating to PISA. In the concluding section we anticipate a possible future when such tests are established in the early childhood education sector and reflect on its possible impact. We argue that the advent of comparative testing of five-year olds heralds an attempt to introduce a new paradigm for early childhood education, one which stresses cognitive skills and children's role as future sources of human capital. Copyright © 2019 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-26
JournalPolicy Futures in Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


PISA study
human capital


Auld, E., & Morris, P. (2019). The OECD and IELS: Redefining early childhood education for the 21st century. Policy Futures in Education, 17(1), 11-26. doi: 10.1177/1478210318823949


  • International Early Learning Study
  • OECD
  • Governance
  • Early childhood education