International Student Expert Network
by on November 6, 2019
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Need for tertiary education continues to increase, but its growth will only be sustainable if, according to a recent OECD survey, it balances the demand of students with labor market and social needs and provides them the skills necessary to manage the future.

After research Education at a Glance 2019, part of the organisation's "I am the Future of Work" initiative, finds that 44% of 25-34 year-olds had a tertiary degree in 2018, compared to 35% in 2008, throughout OECD countries.


Many high-demand markets, however, may have difficulty finding the expertise they require. Less than 15 percent of new entrants to the bachelor programs are studying engineering, manufacturing and construction, and less than 5 percent are studying information and communication technology, considering the highest employment rates and earnings among these industries. Women are particularly under-represented, making up on average less than one in four OECD countries.


“It is more important than ever that young people learn the knowledge and skills needed to navigate our unpredictable and changing world,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, launching the report in Paris. “We must expand opportunities and build stronger bridges with future skills needs so that every student can find their place in society and achieve their full potential.”


Many institutions are adapting to meet changing demands on the labor market by promoting flexible routes to tertiary education, balancing academic and vocational skills, and working closer with employers, industry and training organisations. But they also need to reconcile greater enrolments with the need to reduce expenses while preserving their courses ' value and performance, the report says. 


Between 2005 and 2016, expenditure on tertiary institutions went up to about USD 15,600 per student on average across OECD countries by more than double the rate of student enrolments. Private sources were asked to contribute more as countries introduce or raise fees for tuition.


Education at a Glance 2019 Education at a glance 2019 examines how young people transfer from education to work as part of the continuing study of where OECD and member countries are on their way to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal by 2030. It finds that in the past decade some countries have made substantial progress in reducing the number of out-of-school youth. In the Russian Federation, rates dropped by 20 percentage points, in Mexico by 18 percentage points, in Portugal by 16 percentage points, and in Australia and New Zealand by 10 percentage points between 2005 and 2017.


The report finds that about one in six 15-24 year-olds are participating in training programs, on average across OECD countries. The disparity in achievement between young adults with tertiary education and those with upper secondary education has decreased. In 2018, the proportion of young people with upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary qualifications, 41%, was nearly equal to 44%.


More Key Findings

Educational successes and results

  • The proportion of tertiary-educated 25-34 year-olds rose by 9 percentage points on average between 2008 and 2018 throughout OECD countries, while the proportion of adults with less than upper secondary education dropped from 19% to 15%. 
  • The Income gender gap remains across all levels of educational achievement, and the gap between tertiary-educated adults is wider. Women earn less than men, even in the same diverse field of study with a tertiary degree. 
  • On average, 14.3% of the 18-24-year-olds in OECD countries are not working or in education or training (NEET). More than 25 percent of 18-24 year-olds were NEET in Brazil, Honduras, Costa Rica, Argentina, South Africa, and Turkey.


Access to education

  • Approximately 70% of 17-18 year-olds are enrolled in upper secondary schooling on average across OECD countries, and more than 40% of 19-20 year-olds are participating in tertiary programs in nearly half of OECD countries.
  • The enrollment rate for 4-5 year-olds in preschool in almost all OECD countries in 2017 reached 90 percent, with about one-third of countries reaching full enrollment for 3-year-olds. 
  • Current estimates suggest that, on average, 86% of citizens across OECD countries will graduate in their lifetime from upper secondary education, and 81% will do so before the age of 25. 


Education spending

  • Countries across the OECD invest on primary and tertiary educational institutions on average USD 10,500 per student. Average spending at the tertiary level was 1.7 times lower per student than at other levels.
  • Expenditure continues to rise at a higher rate than all-level student enrolments, especially tertiary since 2010. Between 2010-2016, median spending per student at non-tertiary levels increased by 5% while the number of students remained unchanged. At tertiary level, expenditure increased by 9%, while student numbers increased by 3%. 
  • Total public spending on primary and tertiary education as a percentage of total state spending on all services in 2016 ranged from 6.3 percent in Italy to 17 percent in Chile, averaging 11 percent in OECD countries. 


In the classroom

  • During their primary and lower secondary education, students in OECD countries and economies obtain an average of 7,590 hours of mandatory instruction, ranging from 5,973 hours in Hungary to nearly double that in Australia (11,000 hours) and Denmark (10,960 hours). 
  • The ratio of mandatory mathematics education at the primary level varies from 12% in Denmark to 27% in Mexico; at the lower secondary level, it differs from about 11% in Austria, Ireland and Korea to 16% in Chile, Latvia and the Russian Federation (including 20% in Italy, except natural sciences). 
  • There are 15 students per teacher in primary education and 13 students per teacher in lower secondary education on average across OECD countries. The average school population has 21 students in primary education and 23 lower secondary school students. 
  • The teaching population is aging: 36 percent of primary-to-secondary teachers in 2017 were at least 50-year-old on average across OECD countries, up 5 percentage points from 2005. Only 10% of teachers are under 30 years of age. Women, on average seven out of ten teachers across OECD countries, still dominate the field to a large extent. 


For more information:
Education at a Glance, including country
Journalists are invited to contact the OECD’s Media Office (tel. + 33 1 45 24 97 00)

Posted in: Trends, Education, Research
Topics: education, research
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