The education-related Sustainable Development Goal represents a real challenge for all countries to achieve by 2030, according to the OECD: countries need to redouble their efforts to improve the quality and equity of their education systems, in line with their commitment to achieve the Education for Sustainable Development (SD) Goal for education by 2030, according to a new OECD report released on 15 September.
Ahe latest OECD report "Education at a Glance 2016" measures for the first time ─ countries' efforts to "ensure equal access to quality education for all and promote lifelong learning opportunities". A reference publication on the state of education worldwide, Education at a Glance provides key data on: the performance of educational institutions; the impact of learning in different countries; the financial and human resources invested in education; access, participation and progression within education systems; the learning environment; and school organization.
In the 35 OECD countries, only 12 with data reach the required level in at least five of the ten education-related MDGs, compared with six out of 22 for the European Union countries with data. (1).
Australia and Canada are at the top of the list, followed by the Netherlands and Belgium, with data available for all objectives and the required level of performance in at least seven of the ten objectives. For other countries, the challenge is significant. Overall, the objectives relating to the quality of education and the skills of pupils and adults are proving the most difficult to achieve.
"These results are sobering. Access to quality education remains a challenge for all countries around the world, said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría at the launch of the report in Brussels at the end of September, alongside Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. (2)."Improving the efficiency, quality and equity of education systems is essential to support inclusive growth and give everyone a chance to succeed.
Most countries have increased their investment in education in recent years: between 2008 and 2013, the number of children in school fell by 1 %, following the decline in the number of births in the OECD area. However, in real terms, expenditure per pupil/student increased by 8 % over the same period. Pupil/student and household spending also increased, especially in higher education where 30 % of spending comes from private funds. Between 2008 and 2013, total private expenditure increased by 14 % in the OECD area and by 12 % in the 22 EU countries under review. While some countries have put in place financing mechanisms that provide more students with easier access to education, others impose tuition fees that deprive all but the wealthiest students of the opportunity to study.
Not all young people are yet benefiting from increased spending: even today, one in six 25-34 year olds in the OECD area has not completed upper secondary education. The unemployment rate for young people who have not completed secondary education is 17.4 % on average (21.2 % in the EU), compared with only 6.9 % (8.0 % in the EU) for young people in the same age group who have completed tertiary education.
Disparities between men and women also persist. Women now outnumber men in tertiary education, but they remain under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The transition from school to work is also more difficult for women. In OECD countries, 18.5 % of women aged 20-24 are unemployed and not in education and training, compared with 15.5 % of men.
Immigrants generally lag behind their native counterparts in terms of educational attainment, making it difficult for them to find employment once they leave the education system. Enrolment rates in pre-primary education ─ which is essential for the development of children's cognitive, emotional and social skills ─ are significantly lower among the immigrant population. On average, 37 % of the 25 44 year olds with a migrant background (compared to only 27 % of the indigenous population of the same age group) whose parents have not completed upper secondary education also do not have a diploma at this level of education. Immigrant students are also much less likely than their Aboriginal counterparts to successfully complete a bachelor's degree or equivalent.
The report also examines the return on countries' investments in education. Under public pressure, countries reduced class sizes by 6 % between 2005 and 2014 in lower secondary education, while the results of the OECD's PISA programme show that top-performing education systems consistently give priority to improving the quality of education over reducing class sizes. Investments to reduce class size have mobilized resources that could have been better used to recruit and reward quality teachers: between 2005 and 2014, upper secondary teacher salaries increased on average by only 1 % in real terms, and even decreased in one-third of countries.
Education at a Glance 2016 provides comparable national statistics to assess the state of education around the world. The report analyses the education systems of the 35 OECD member countries and the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, China, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United States.
Level of training
- The enrolment rate of 20-24 year olds in higher education increased from 29 % to 33 % between 2005 and 2014. 36 % of today's young adults are expected to graduate before the age of 30, but only 41 % of full-time undergraduate students graduate within the theoretical time frame. (indicator A3)
- Gender disparities persist: while women outnumber men in tertiary education (57 % of first degrees are awarded to women in the OECD area), they remain under-represented in some fields of study, such as science and engineering, where in 2014 there will be four female graduates for every one male. (indicator A3)
- The wage advantage over upper secondary school graduates amounts to 91 % for holders of a master's degree or higher, 48 % for holders of a bachelor's degree and 20 % for holders of a short higher education diploma. (indicator A6). However, for women, the net private return to higher education attainment is about two-thirds of that of men (indicator A7).
- On average, OECD countries spend USD 10,493 per pupil/student per year from primary to tertiary education: USD 8,477 per primary student, USD 9,980 per lower secondary student, USD 9,990 per upper secondary student and USD 15,772 per tertiary student (indicator B1).
- Expenditure on tertiary education has increased rapidly in most countries: in 2013, it was 29 % higher than in 2005, mainly due to a considerable increase in the enrolment rate in tertiary education, by 16 % on average in OECD countries (indicator B1).
- In 2012, OECD countries spent on average 5.2 % of their gross domestic product (GDP) on education, from primary to tertiary education, ranging from 3.5 % in Luxembourg to 6.7 % in the United Kingdom (indicator B2).
Access to education
- In pre-primary education, the enrolment rate of 3-year-olds increased from 54 % in 2005 to 69 % in 2014, and that of 4-year-olds from 73 % to 85 % over the same period, on average in OECD countries for which data are available for these two reference years (indicator C2).
- In OECD countries, 68 % of young adults will enter tertiary education at least once in their lives, assuming current trends continue. This average falls to 61 % if students in international mobility are excluded, and to 51 % if only national students under 25 years of age are included (indicator C3).
- In the OECD zone, in 2014, students in international mobility represented 6 % of the higher education enrolment. Globally, the number of foreign students in higher education increased by 50 % between 2005 and 2012 (indicator C4).
In the classroom
- On average, students in OECD countries have 7,540 hours of compulsory education from primary to the end of lower secondary school, with a range from 5,720 hours in Hungary to almost double that in Australia (11,000 hours) and Denmark (10,960 hours) (indicator D1).
- In many countries, the ageing of the teaching force is problematic: between 2005 and 2014, the proportion of teachers aged 50 or over increased in 16 of the 24 OECD countries with available data. 31 % of primary teachers were aged 50 or older in 2014, compared with 34 % in lower secondary and 38 % in upper secondary (indicator D5).
- More than two out of every three teachers are women, on average, in OECD countries, but the proportion of female teachers decreases as the level of education rises: 97 % in pre-primary, 82 % in primary, 68 % in lower secondary, 58 % in upper secondary and 43 % in tertiary (Indicator D5).
(1) The 22 EU countries for which data are available are as follows: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
(2) Press conferences were held around the world, including in Mexico City (Gabriela Ramos, Director of the OECD Cabinet, Sherpa G20 and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General), Berlin (Andreas Schleicher, Director of the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills), in Brasilia (Dirk van Damme and Camila de Moraes, analysts from the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills), and in Paris (Corinne Heckmann and Eric Charbonnier, analysts from the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills).