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5 Jul, 2013

Value of education rises in crisis but investment in this area is falling, says OECD report


PARIS, 25/06/2013 (OECD News release) – The jobs gap between well-educated young people and those who left school early has continued to widen during the crisis. A good education is the best insurance against a lack of work experience, according to the latest edition of the OECD’s annual Education at a Glance.

Unemployment rates are nearly three times higher among people without an upper secondary education (13% on average across OECD countries) than among those who have a tertiary education (5%). Between 2008 and 2011, the unemployment rate for the poorly-educated rose by around 4 percentage points, while it increased by only 1.5 percentage points for the highly educated.

“Leaving school with good qualifications is more essential than ever,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Countries must focus efforts on helping young people, especially the less well-educated who are most at risk of being trapped in a low skills, low wage future. Priorities include reducing school dropout rates and investing in skills-oriented education that integrates the worlds of learning and work.

Though the focus should remain on quality of spending, Governments must ensure that investment in education does not fall as a result of the crisis.”

This year’s report finds new evidence of the value of vocational qualifications as a pathway to employment: countries with a higher than average (32%) share of vocational graduates, such as Austria, Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland, saw unemployment rise much less or even fall among 25-34 year-olds than their peers with general upper secondary qualifications.

The crisis has also widened the earnings gap: the average difference in earnings from employment between the low educated and the highly educated has risen from 75 percentage points across OECD countries in 2008 to 90 percentage points in 2011. On average, the relative earnings of tertiary-educated adults are over 1.5 times that of adults with upper secondary education. People with upper secondary education earn 25% more than their peers who left school early.

One outcome of the crisis has been a rise in the number of young people staying on at school, as their job prospects declined. Since 2008, the percentage of 15-29 year-olds who continued in education increased by an average of 1.5 percentage points among OECD countries.

But the crisis has halted the long-term trend of rising investment in education. Public spending on educational institutions between 2009 and 2010 as a percentage of GDP fell by 1% on average across the OECD area.

Public expenditure on educational institutions decreased in one- third of countries during that period, by 2% or less in Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the United States. Drops of more than 2% were seen in  Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy and Russian Federation. Education budget cuts took place in 2011 and 2012 in 15 OECD countries.

At the tertiary level, between 2005 and 2010, spending per tertiary student fell in 8 countries, as expenditure did not keep up with expanding enrolments. Austria, Iceland, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States, which saw significant increases in student enrolment between 2005 and 2010, did not increase spending at the same pace as enrolment grew. Public spending per student also fell in New Zealand, the Russian Federation and Switzerland.

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, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

Key findings

Educational attainment

The rate of tertiary education attainment among adults in OECD countries has increased by almost 10 percentage points since 2000, but still less than 35% of both men and women attain tertiary education.

Most graduates at all levels of tertiary education are women, except at the doctoral level. Based on current patterns of graduation, it is estimated that an average of 48% of today’s young women and 32% of today’s young men in OECD countries will complete tertiary education over their lifetimes.

More young women are graduating from vocational programmes than ever before at upper secondary level. Their graduation rates are now approaching those of men: 45% compared to 49%. In Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, vocational graduate rates are higher for women than for men.

 Education spending

On average, OECD countries spend USD 9,313 per student from primary through tertiary education: USD 7,974 per primary student, USD 9,014 per secondary student, and USD 13,528 per tertiary student.

The share of public funding for tertiary institutions has fallen steadily: from 77% in 1995, to 76% in 2000, to 71% in 2005 and then to 68% in 2010.

Teachers with maximum qualifications at the top of their salary scales are paid, on average, USD 47,243 at pre-primary level, USD 49,609 at primary, USD 52, 697 at lower secondary, and USD 53,449 at upper secondary. Only in France and Japan have salaries declined between 2000 and 2011.

Education and health

More-educated adults are less likely to smoke and be obese.

Adults with a tertiary education are half as likely to be obese compared to those with a below upper secondary education. Tertiary-educated adults in 23 OECD countries are 16 percentage points less likely to smoke, on average, than those with a below upper secondary education.

School environment

Students in OECD countries are expected to receive an average of 7,751 hours of instruction during primary and lower secondary education. At primary level, reading, writing and literature, maths and science make up 51% of compulsory instruction time and 41% at lower secondary level.

Public school teachers teach an average of 994 hours per year at pre-primary level, 790 at primary, 709 at lower secondary, and 664 at upper secondary.

Teaching hours vary widely between countries: public primary teachers teach less than 600 hours in Greece and Russia to over 1,000 in Chile and the US; in public upper secondary, teachers teach 369 hours in Denmark but 1,448 in Argentina.

Further information on Education at a Glance, including country notes, multilingual summaries and key data, is available at www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm