Does education really pay off? Has public spending on education been affected by the economic crisis? How are education and employment related?
You’ll find the answers to these and just about any other question you may have about the state of education in the world today in Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators, published today. Did you know, for example, that tertiary-educated adults earn about 60% more, on average, than adults with upper secondary as their highest level of educational attainment? Or that between 2010 and 2012, as countries’ GDP began to rise following the economic slowdown, public expenditure on education fell in more than one in three OECD countries?
This year’s edition of the annual compendium of education statistics includes more than 100 charts, 150 tables and links to another 150 tables on line. It also contains more detailed analyses of participation in early childhood and tertiary levels of education; data on the impact of skills on employment and earnings, gender differences in education and employment; educational and social mobility; adults’ ability and readiness to use information and communication technologies; how education is financed; and information on teachers, from their salaries and hours spent teaching to information on recess and breaks during the school day.
We invite you to take a good long look – and learn.
- 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)
Jeremy Simon, Harvard Graduate School of Education
In the United States we treat education like it is a sport. And thanks to the PISA, an international test administered to 15 year olds around the world which produces a ranking of countries’ achievement in math, science, and reading every three years, we know who is winning. But winning isn’t all that is important in education. For that we need to consider how education is more like running a marathon and less like the Super Bowl.
There is only one Super Bowl winner every year. But education has more in common with a marathon, not a tournament. While it is true all runners would like to be the first ones across the finish line, an appeal of marathon running is that each racer is competing not only against her or his fellow runners but also themselves. They are striving to set a new personal best and see how their new training regimen paid off from last time, all while racing not only one another but the clock as well.
Education is a marathon and PISA is the race. Every three years there will only be one PISA “winner”, but dozens of countries will have the opportunity to see if they improved, regressed, or stayed the same.
If the goal of every runner in a marathon was to win then there would be hundreds of losers in every event. Similarly, if every country only focused on where they ranked in the PISA, the test would produce dozens of losers. But if we focus on the PISA score and not the ranking, much like a runner might examine her time and not her place, we can understand how the PISA is invaluable for evaluating if a country is getting better or worse at educating its children.
A marathon runner races themselves and the other runners. Even when victory is impossible, a marathoner can still cross the finish line and immediately know if the hard work they had put into training for the race had paid off with an improved time. Similarly, countries can use the PISA to measure their progress and determine how effective their attempts to improve have been.
For example, the United States can use its PISA score to see how consistently we have performed in reading. In the initial PISA test the U.S. scored a 504 in reading. Twelve years later we regressed slightly, scoring 498. This tells us that U.S. reading performance didn’t improve during that time. But the rankings tell a different story. In 2000 the U.S. ranked 16th in the world in reading. By 2012 we had dropped to 24th.
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If the United States were obsessed with PISA rankings these results would be a disheartening trend. However, by using PISA scores and not rankings, the U.S. can at least understand that we have stagnated, not fallen, in reading scores.
Admittedly a plateau in progress isn’t an achievement worth celebrating. But knowing that as a country we haven’t gotten worse but other countries have gotten better is critical information for U.S. educators and policy makers. When competing in education, the U.S. should be thankful the PISA is a marathon and not the Super Bowl.
David Istance, Senior Analyst, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills
Education has become increasingly important worldwide, including politically. Probably the key driver for this is economic – the fundamental role of knowledge and skills in underpinning and maintaining prosperity. No argument has more political purchase today regarding education’s value than that it enhances competitiveness. These developments create an appetite for reform and innovation, often manifest as favouring “learning” over “education”, and a readiness to disrupt accepted institutional arrangements as too slow to change, too inward-looking, and too detached from the economic shifts taking place globally and locally.
This represents a very different starting point for innovation compared with the longstanding educational ambition to realise more holistic opportunities and promote individual development. From this perspective, the problem is not that the institutions of education are too detached from the economy, but that they are too close, and are pulled to narrow their curricula and instil only superficial knowledge and not deep understanding. The charge is also that education systems are profoundly inequitable, too driven by sorting and selecting and not organised for the optimisation of learning.
There is another constituency with an interest in innovation. Innovating learning environments offer a far more promising route for enhancing the attractiveness of teaching than backward-looking definitions of professionalism seen as the right of the individual teacher to be left undisturbed in his or her own classroom.
The differences of the critiques and constituencies notwithstanding, they coalesce around the urgent need to innovate the fundamentals of schooling: to address the low visibility of teacher work and their isolation in highly fragmented classroom arrangements, the low engagement of too many of the main players (especially students), conformity and highly unequal learning outcomes.
Some 26 school systems (countries, regions, networks) participated in the final part of the OECD Innovative Learning Environments project by submitting their own initiatives for innovating learning beyond single schools or organisations. The synthesis report that emerged from this project, Schooling Redesigned: Towards Innovative Learning Systems, is published today.
The report summarises the strategies that lead to innovation as a series of Cs: culture change; clarifying focus; creating professional capacity; collaboration and co-operation; communication technologies and platforms; and change agents .
The book emphasises the importance of design, and for that read “leadership”. In complex school systems, leadership can include many more actors – such as community players, families and foundations – besides those usually involved in designing curricula and classrooms. Government leadership remains fundamental, however, because of its legitimacy, breadth and capacity to unlock resources. Governments have a privileged role in starting and sustaining change, and in regulating, incentivising and accelerating it. But this does not have to mean “micro-managing”.
For example, New Zealand’s “Learning and Change Networks” is a government-initiated strategy to establish a web of knowledge-sharing networks among schools, families, teachers, leaders, communities, professional providers and the Ministry of Education. Network participants work collaboratively to accelerate student achievement in grades 1 to 8 and address equity issues.
Austria’s “New Secondary School” reform was initiated by the government in 2008 and has since been mandated to be phased in completely by 2018. It is introduced in individual schools through school-based change agents (Lerndesigners) who themselves work collaboratively as networks. The recently established National Center for Learning Schools provides materials and organisation for these change agents.
The report elaborates what an innovative learning environment would look like, not just in individual schools but across a whole system. For example, schools and classrooms would be characterised by the “buzz” of collegial activity and have many students learning outside conventional classrooms; learner voice would be prominent, including in leadership, right across school systems; educators would discuss and practice learning strategies collaboratively, and personalise these strategies for individual learners; learners and educators would use digital resources and social media innovatively for teaching, learning and professional exchanges; there would be a dominant practice of self-review and use of evidence to inform design; and there would be dense networks of collaboration across districts, networks, chains and communities of practice.
How interesting it would be to be able to measure progress towards this vision, to supplement the more conventional education statistics and indicators!
Tracey Burns, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills
Did you ever wonder if education has a role to play in stemming the obesity epidemic sweeping across all OECD countries? Or what the impact of increasing urbanisation might be on our schools, families, and communities? Or whether new technologies really are fundamentally changing the way our children think and learn? If so, you’re not alone.
The OECD’s work on Trends Shaping Education stimulates reflection on the challenges facing education by providing an overview of key economic, social, demographic and technological trends. It has been used by ministries to guide strategic thinking and in Parliaments as a strategic foresight tool. It’s also part of the curriculum in teacher education colleges, and is a resource for teachers when designing courses and lectures, as well as parents and students themselves.
The fourth edition of the book will be launched in January 2016. Two weeks ago, the Trends team travelled to Brussels to hold an expert workshop with researchers in a number of domains, including demography, governance, urban design, new technologies, climate change, financial literacy, small and medium enterprises, children and families, and banking.
Why take the time to meet face-to-face with these experts? To be honest we weren’t sure that it would yield any results. Researchers have many demands on their time, and it is not often that they are given a chance to look beyond their own particular speciality to think more holistically about global trends. Sometimes, though, it is by bringing people together unexpectedly that the best ideas emerge.
Will robots replace our teaching force in 10 years? In 20 years? Will new fertility technologies allow for designer babies (and, in parallel, “rejects” that did not turn out as expected)? Will online relationships rival or replace our friendship groups? What might this mean for families, and schools? These ideas might seem radical, but the trends behind them are supported by science. And while they are still speculative, there are a number of trends that could have an impact on education, if not today, then tomorrow or the next day. And yet most of our education systems still do not address them.
For example, climate change trends make it clear that across OECD countries we can expect to experience more and more extreme weather events. In most of our countries, the effects will be felt most acutely in cities, where the density of the population and ageing infrastructure (roads and services, such as water, electricity and plumbing) makes us especially vulnerable. If you combine this with worries about the emergence of new epidemics (MERS in Korea is just the latest example) and our ageing populations, a cautious city planner has reason for concern. And not just hypothetical reasons, either. Recent flooding in New York and other major cities has revealed the weakness of many of our emergency-response services.
So what does this have to do with education? Good question. In the short term, communities need to have a plan to educate their populations on what to do (and not do) in the event of a major storm or other extreme weather event such as drought or fires. In the medium and long term, we need to develop school infrastructure and transport that are designed to provide safe access for our students. Hoping it won’t happen is not a sustainable plan – certainly not for the communities that have already experienced an extreme weather event or those that are forecast to do so in the near future.
This is just one example. Important trends to keep an eye on range from the macro level (increasing globalisation and migration) all the way through national and regional labour markets, urban planning, and our changing demography and family structures. How can education support our ageing populations – currently one of the major demographic preoccupations for most OECD governments – to stay active and healthy well past retirement? Will cities keep growing at increasing speeds, or will we continue to see the decline of mid-size cities, such as Detroit (USA) and Busan (Korea)? What about new technologies in the classroom, will they change the way we teach and learn? Perhaps even our concept of what a classroom is?
In September, we plan to hold a second workshop in order to discuss how the trends we have identified might interact with education in the short and medium term. Stay tuned to find out how that goes, and to get a sneak peek between the covers of the next Trends Shaping Education volume, due out in January next year.
I once got corrected by some pedant for talking about a “tennis bat”, so as you may realise, I don’t know much about the sport. But I do like Andy Murray, ever since I saw an interview with him after he’d won some big game that lasted for ages. The journalist mentioned that his mother and girlfriend were in the crowd, and that it must have been really hard for them. A professional athlete is trained to react instantaneously to this by talking about “my greatest supporters, always there for me, an inspiration, etc.”. Not our Andy. “Aye, maybe” he muttered, “but it was a lot harder for me”.
Andy tells it like it is, and in this interview he explains why he picked a woman to coach him: because Amélie Mauresmo is the best in the world. He also describes the reaction to his choice and how the press blamed Mauresmo when he lost – something that never happened when he was being coached by men, despite the fact that he rose from world number 14 to number 3 thanks to her.
You don’t expect a tennis player to be smarter than a Noble prize winner, but compare that with science laureate Tim Hunt, reported by The Guardian: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.” And if you think Andy Murray is clueless about the media, Hunt made this remark at a meeting of science journalists.
Sexism in science isn’t always so aggressive or panicky. There’s also the “benevolent sexism” discussed in this article in Scientific American. The authors quote the obituary of Yvonne Brill: “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said. But Yvonne Brill, who died on Wednesday at 88 in Princeton, N.J., was also a brilliant rocket scientist, who in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.” Can you imagine a male scientist being described first in terms of his housekeeping and parenting accomplishments before mentioning that he “also” had a major impact on his field?
A “PISA in Focus” study on What Lies behind Gender Inequality in Education? published in March found that girls – even high-achieving girls – tend to underachieve compared to boys when they are asked to “think like scientists”, such as when they are asked to formulate situations mathematically or interpret phenomena scientifically. The PISA authors suggest that this gender difference may be related to students’ self-confidence. “When students are more self-confident, they give themselves the freedom to fail, to engage in the trial-and-error processes that are fundamental to acquiring knowledge in mathematics and science.” Parents are more likely to expect their sons rather than their daughters to work in a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) field, even when their 15-year-old boys and girls perform at the same level in mathematics.
The PISA results confirm what you probably suspected, namely that sexist attitudes towards girls and women in science start early. Various other OECD studies along with data from research carried out elsewhere show that although boys and girls initially have the same ability and interest in STEM, a series of social and cultural factors help to split certain disciplines and professions according to gender. For example, in an experiment conducted in French high schools, cited by the OECD Global Science Forum in Encouraging Student Interest in Science and Technology Studies, fictitious orientation files with the same data were tested with teachers. When the fictitious first name is male, teachers’ orientation of the student towards science is twice as frequent as when the first name is female.
Heartbreaker Hunt isn’t the only one worrying his pretty little head about women. And his unease about clever girls has a long history. In 1914 when lesser spirits were getting in a flap about the impending war and other trivia, Berlin University professor Hans Friedenthal warned the world of where the real danger lay: “Brain work will cause the ‘new woman’ to become bald, while increasing masculinity and contempt for beauty will induce the growth of hair on the face. In the future, therefore, women will be bald and will wear long moustaches and patriarchal beards”.
Now that’s what I can call “thinking like a scientist”!
To mark the centenary of The First World War, we will be publishing a series of articles looking at what has changed over the last century in a number of domains. Today’s post is by Eric Charbonnier of the OECD Education Directorate
If there’s one thing that’s changed rapidly over the past 100 years, it’s education. University for example used to be reserved for a small elite, whereas now around 40% of 25-34 year olds in OECD countries graduate from the education system with a higher diploma. Qualifications still play a major role in career development. The higher the diploma, the more its holder is likely to contribute to economic growth and, especially in the recent economic downturn, be protected from the worst impacts of the crisis. This is particularly true in France and other European countries where those with no qualifications find themselves in an extremely precarious position in the job market.
Mass expansion of higher education has other consequences too. A high school diploma used to open the door to many professions, but now that it has become the norm in most OECD countries, it no longer sets the graduate apart as it used to. It could even be argued that the main impact of such a diploma is now negative in a sense, since not having one has a bigger impact on a young person’s prospects than having one. Diplomas awarded for a general course are affected most. They are now seen as a stepping stone on the way to further education, rather than a milestone marking the transition to adult life and entry into the workforce.
Even France’s famous baccalaureate is coming under increasing criticism as being too expensive, too easy to obtain, and offering few prospects as such, despite its status as an irreproachable “national treasure”. Despite strong historical links dating from its support by Napoleon in 1808, there’s no doubt that the “bac” will evolve in the coming years to become more like what is found in other OECD countries – a diploma based on continuous assessment and a final exam that is limited to the fundamentals.
Access to education has become more democratic, even if social disparities still remain too important. But the gap is nothing like it was before. To return to the baccalaureate for a minute, the first woman wasn’t allowed to sit the exam until 1861, and even then, it was another half a century (1924) before men and women answered the same questions.
As well as becoming more democratic, education has become more globalised, with countries competing to attract the best students. The number of students studying in a foreign country was multiplied by 5 over 1975-2012, rising from 800,000 to 4.5 million. This trend looks set to strengthen in the coming years, and countries will develop multiple strategies not just to attract students, but to keep them in their workforce after graduation, as Australia and New Zealand do already.
The sudden transformations brought about by mass education and globalised education were not foreseen, but access to education and knowledge now condition success and personal fulfilment in modern society. Despite all the changes since 1914 though, one thing remains the same: the role of teachers is as central is transmitting knowledge nowadays as it has been since the dawn of time, despite the constant changes to their profession. When you read about schools a hundred years ago, or look at the early class photos, it’s striking how similar all the pupils are. Today, many teachers are used to having children from a wide range of backgrounds in their class. Teaching methods have changed significantly too, as has the level of knowledge and professionalism demanded of staff. But in 2014 as in 1914, teachers are still the key to students’ success, which is why a growing number of OECD countries are placing teachers’ initial training and professional development at the heart of education reforms.
Even if there has been a revolution in schooling over the past century, the quality of an education system will never be greater than the quality of its teachers. It was true in 1914, remains true in 2014, and will no doubt still be true in 2114.
Education GPS, the OECD source for internationally comparable data and analysis on education
Today’s post is by Tobias Vogt and Fanny Kluge from the Laboratory of Survival and Longevity at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany
Ageing populations are a threat to the sustainability of modern societies. This is a dominant line of thought in the political, public and scientific discussion that warns us about the consequences of demographic change. It refers to the concern that the needs of an increasing share of older people have to be met by a decreasing number of younger members of our societies. These warnings must be taken seriously if current conditions prevail. The changes in the age structure will bring major challenges to public finances and the demand for an adjustment of current social policies, in particular, in countries with large public welfare programs for the elderly. Yet, the demographic future may not look as bleak as we generally think. The greying of a population may even embrace certain advantages simply because of the natural transformation of the age structure. This thought was the starting point for a, so far rare, project that focused on the potentials and chances of demographic change. In this case study (downloadable from PLoS One) we focused on Germany as the second oldest country worldwide in terms of its population’s median age of 44.3 years and identified five different areas that may benefit if observed trends of the past continue into the future.
To understand the anticipated challenges as well as the opportunities of demographic change one has to keep in mind that they only result from a change in the age structure of a population. If we depict the current age composition in Germany or in most industrialized countries, it looks rather more like a tree than the usual population pyramid. Yet, this illustration will also only be a snapshot as the over-represented older age groups will become smaller and eventually disappear in the coming decades. Despite ongoing low fertility and a general population decline, this will result in a more stable age structure after 2040 than in the decades when the large baby boom cohorts reach retirement age. In the last decades the share of Germans above age 65 rose by 2 to 3 percentage points. Between 2020 and 2040 this share of Germans will increase by 10 percentage points from 23% to 33%. In the following two decades it will remain stable at this high level and go up slightly.
One major concern of this population structure is that fewer and older individuals are expected to be less productive. This assumption ignores the fact that certain productivity determinants among older individuals like education and health will not remain constant but change over time.
During the last decades participation rates in higher education have increased from cohort to cohort which is reflected in the share of individuals in the labor force with tertiary education. In 2008, every fifth individual in the age groups 25-29 and over age 50 attained tertiary education. These shares will rise considerably. After 2050, every third individual in the respective age groups will have a tertiary education. If current labor force participation rates among these groups remain as they are, this would mean that 46% of the German labor force will hold a higher education degree compared to 28% today.
These changes in educational levels are accompanied by an improvement in individual health. Over the last 30 years, the age at which Germans report worsening subjective health has become later and later. If we forecast this trend into the future we find that not only average life expectancy as such will increase but also the number of years we live in good health. Already today Germans can expect to spend up to 60% of their life in good health. By 2050, this share will increase to 80%, which suggests that most of the years of gained life expectancy may not necessarily be years of bad health. Of course, this scenario is based on past developments and neglects potential future health threats like the consequences of increasing obesity levels and rising cognitive impairments at older ages. Nevertheless, fears of productivity losses may be partially absorbed by the improvements in individual health and education.
A smaller and older population may not only be more productive than expected but even cause less environmental pollution. When we observe individual consumption patterns and their ecological consequences, we find that over the life course younger individuals travel and consume more and, thus, cause higher CO2 emissions than individuals at retirement age. This implies that if today’s consumption behavior prevails, older and smaller populations may generate substantial CO2 reductions. We found that the change in population size and consumption preferences led to a 30% increase in emissions between 1950 and 2020. In the following decades, emissions could decline even to pre-1950s levels.
Apart from the challenges and opportunities on the population level, demographic change will certainly influence our individual lives and our family relationships. On average, we will live longer in good health and need care later, but there will be fewer younger individuals in our family network to support their elderly parents or other relatives. Whether changes in time use can make up for these missing individuals is questionable. We find that if the current work and leisure patterns prevail, individuals will spend slightly more time on leisure and housework and the share of work time drops from 14.5% to 11.9%. Whether the young really spend the additional time they have with the elderly remains to be seen. One important question in this respect is also how valuable the elderly will be in terms of resources they can provide. The wealth they pass on to the next generation will have to be shared with a smaller number of siblings and thus younger family members might be better off.
Certainly this study does not solve the challenges we face in the future, but it sheds some light on potential opportunities that aging populations create. During the coming decades societal frameworks will change and individuals will adapt their behavior to new expectations. The magnitude of the future effects is thus unknown, but we should start to discuss this potential, and favorable adaptations in our society. The future is not too bright, but also not as dark as sometimes argued and we do have the potential to change it.
Working better with age OECD review of policies to improve labour market prospects for older workers