Governments need to tackle persistent inequalities in education and focus on improving efficiencies in their education systems in order to ensure that every child, whatever their background, can realise their full potential and benefit from a good education, according to a new OECD report.
Education at a Glance 2015 reveals the rapid progress made in expanding education over the past 25 years, with around 41% of 25-34 year-olds now having a tertiary qualification. But inequalities still persist in education, with serious consequences for labour markets and economies. In 2014, less than 60% of adults without an upper secondary education were in work, compared to over 80% of tertiary-educated adults.
Educational inequalities also affect earnings, with adults who have attained tertiary education 23 percentage points more likely to be among the 25% highest paid adults than adults with an upper secondary education.
“The dream of ‘quality education for all’ is not yet a reality,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría at the launch of the report in Paris. “Lack of a quality education is the most powerful form of social exclusion and prevents people from benefiting from economic growth and social progress.” Read the speech.
Inequalities in initial education continue to unfold throughout people’s lives, notably in access to lifelong learning: about 60% of workers in the most skilled occupations participate in employer-sponsored education, while only 26% of workers in elementary occupations do.
This year’s edition of Education at a Glance also reveals the difficulties that governments face in financing education. Between 2010 and 2012, GDP began to rise again in most countries, and public spending on primary to tertiary educational institutions fell in more than one in three OECD countries, including Australia, Canada, Estonia, France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and the United States.
Amid budget cuts at primary and secondary levels, most governments have chosen to reduce teacher salaries rather than increase class sizes. But evidence from the OECD’s PISA program reveals that high-performing countries, such as Finland, Japan or Korea, prioritize teaching and teachers over infrastructure and class sizes.
The number of countries showing an increase in salaries, in real terms, shrank to about one in two OECD countries between 2008 and 2013. On average across the OECD, pre-primary and primary teachers earn 78% of the salary of a similarly-educated, full-time worker; lower secondary teachers are paid 80% and upper secondary teachers 82% of that benchmark salary.
These uncompetitive salaries will make it harder to attract the best candidates to the teaching profession, especially as the teaching workforce is ageing, with 35% of secondary school teachers at least 50 years old in 2013. That proportion rose by 3 percentage points between 2005 and 2013. The increase was 10 percentage points or more in Greece, Korea, Portugal and Slovenia and 19 points in Austria.
Education at a Glance provides comparable national statistics measuring the state of education worldwide. The report analyses the education systems of the 34 OECD member countries, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
- Around 85% of today’s young people will complete upper secondary education over their lifetimes. In all countries, young women are now more likely to do so than men. The largest gender gap is in Slovenia, where 95% of young women are expected to graduate from upper secondary, compared to only 76% of young men. (Indicator A2)
- Around 41% of 25-34 year olds in OECD countries now have a university-level education. That proportion is 16 percentage points larger than of 55-64 year-olds who have attained a similar level of education. In many countries, this difference exceeds 20 percentage points. (Indictor A1)
- The number of students enrolled outside their country of citizenship has risen dramatically, from 1.7 million worldwide in 1995 to more than 4.5 million (Indicator C4). Some 27% of students in OECD countries who graduated for the first time from a doctoral programme in 2013 were international students, compared to only 7% for students who were awarded a bachelor’s degree. (Indicator A3)
- On average, 83% of tertiary-educated people are employed, compared with 74% of people with an upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education and 56% of people with below upper-secondary education. (Indicator A5)
- OECD countries spend on average USD 10,220 per student per year from primary through tertiary education: USD 8,247 per primary student, USD 9,518 per secondary student, and USD 15,028 per tertiary student. (Indicator B1)
- The share of private funding in tertiary education has increased over the past decade. About two thirds of private funding at tertiary level comes from households through tuition fees. Tuition fees are higher than USD 2000 in more than half of the countries with available data, exceed USD 4000 in Australia, Canada, Korea and New Zealand, USD 5000 in Japan and USD 8000 in the United Kingdom and United States. (Indicator B5)
- OECD countries spent an average of 5.3% of GDP on primary to tertiary education in 2012 (including undistributed programmes by level of education). Public funding accounts for 83.5% of all spending on primary to tertiary educational institutions. Public spending on education fell in more than one out of three OECD countries between 2010 and 2012, including Australia, Canada, Estonia, France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and the United States. (Indicators B2 and B3)
Early childhood education
- In most OECD countries, education now begins for most children well before they are 5 years old. Some 74% of 3-year-olds are enrolled in education across the OECD and 80% of European Union member OECD countries. (Indicator C2)
- Enrolments in pre-primary rose from 52% of 3-year-olds in 2005 to 72% in 2013, and from 69% of 4-year-olds to 85% in 2013. The enrolment rates of 4-year olds increased by 20 percentage points or more in Australia, Chile, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Russian Federation and Turkey between 2005 and 2013. (Indicator C2)
- More than half of children enrolled in early childhood development programmes attend private institutions. This can result in heavy financial burdens for parents, even when government subsidies are provided. (Indicator C2)
In the classroom
- Students receive an average of 7570 hours of compulsory education at primary and lower secondary level. Students in Denmark have the most, at over 10,000 hours, and in Hungary the least, at less than 6,000 hours.(Indicator D1)
- The average primary class in OECD countries has 21 students and 24 at lower secondary level. The larger the class size, the less time teachers spend teaching and the more time they spend on keeping order in the classroom: one additional student added to an average-size class is associated with 0.5 percentage point decrease in time spent on teaching and learning. Indicator D2)
- The statutory salaries of teachers with 15 years’ experience average USD 41,245 at primary level, USD 42,825 at lower secondary and USD 44,600 at upper secondary level. (Indicator D3)