education and training

OECD report: Access to education as a route out of poverty

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OECD finds a slowdown in intergenerational educational mobility in industrialised countries

While access to schooling continues to expand worldwide, socio-economic divisions are widening between adults with higher education and the rest of society. Governments must redouble their efforts to ensure that all citizens have equal opportunities to receive a quality education from an early age, according to a new OECD report. Will this report make a difference in the years to come?

The 2014 edition of Regards on education shows that intergenerational mobility in training has started to slow down in industrialised countries. The percentage of people with less education than their parents is 9 % among 55-64 year olds, 12 % among 35-44 year olds and 16 % among 25-34 year olds.

Moreover, among the 25-34, who have 43 %s with tertiary education, the impact of parental educational attainment is also important: 65 %s have tertiary education if at least one of their parents has tertiary education, but only 23 %s have tertiary education if their parents have low levels of education.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría says that "Education can provide a route out of poverty and social exclusion, but to do this we must break the link between social background and the opportunity to study. The greatest danger for inclusive growth is that social mobility will be stopped. Broadening access to education for all and continuing to improve skills are essential for sustainable prosperity and greater social cohesion. »

The report shows that higher levels of education and skills are more useful than ever, both in terms of employment and income and in many social aspects such as health. On average in OECD countries, 5 % of 25-64 year olds with tertiary education are unemployed, compared to 14 % of those with less than upper secondary education. In 2000, the gap between these two groups was four percentage points lower.

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The new income data also show a widening gap between those with and those without degrees: between 2000 and 2012, the relative income gap between medium- and high-skilled adults widened twice as fast as that between medium- and low-skilled adults. This means that, in relative terms, the incomes of medium-skilled adults have moved closer to those of low-skilled adults, suggesting that the middle classes are losing ground.

The report analyses the education systems of the 34 OECD member countries as well as those of Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

Key Findings

Levels of training
Approximately 84 % of today's youth will successfully complete upper secondary education in their lifetime. In most countries, young women are now more likely than men to do so: the historical trend has been reversed.

Across OECD countries as a whole, nearly 40 %s in the 25-34 age group have tertiary education qualifications, 15 points higher than in the 55-64 age group. In many countries, this gap exceeds 20 points.

Higher education graduates are likely to earn twice as much as the average worker. In Chile, Brazil and Hungary, they earn more than double what a senior secondary school graduate earns.

Education spending
OECD countries spend an average of USD 9,487 per student per year from primary school to tertiary education: USD 8,296 for a primary student, USD 9,280 for a secondary student and USD 13,958 for a tertiary student.

High teacher salaries and high pupil-teacher ratios are often among the main costs in the ten countries that spend the most per pupil in secondary education.

In 2011, OECD countries spent an average of 6.1 % of GDP on education. Public funds account for 84 % of total spending on educational institutions. Only six countries reduced public spending on education in real terms between 2008 and 2011: Estonia (-10 %), the United States (-3 %), the Russian Federation (-5 %), Hungary (-12 %), Iceland (-11 %) and Italy (-11 %).

Transition from school to working life
The economic crisis has encouraged more young people to continue their education: the share of 15-29 year olds no longer in school rose from 54 % in 2008 to 51 % in 2012 on average in member countries.

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In OECD countries, a 15-year-old in 2011 could expect to study for about seven more years over the next 15 years. Before the age of 30, he or she could expect to work for five years, be unemployed for almost a year and be inactive (neither in school nor looking for work) for more than a year.

More than half of the adults receive training in a given year. They are two out of three in Denmark, Finland and Sweden, one out of three in Slovakia and one out of four in Italy.

In the classroom
Pupils attend an average of 7,475 hours of compulsory classes in primary and lower secondary schools. Australia has the longest instructional time (more than 10,000 hours) and Hungary the shortest (less than 6,000 hours).

The statutory salary for teachers with 15 years' experience averages USD 39 024 in primary, USD 40 570 in lower secondary and USD 42 861 in upper secondary, but teachers in almost two-thirds of countries have seen their salaries decline in real terms since 2009.

Most teachers are women, but their share decreases as the level of education increases: there are 97 % in pre-primary, 82 % in primary, 67 % in lower secondary, 57 % in upper secondary and 42 % in higher education.

More information on the report Education at a Glance.

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