09/09/2014 - Access to education continues to expand worldwide but the socio-economic divisions between tertiary-educated adults and the rest of society are growing. Governments must do more to ensure that everyone has the same opportunity to a good education early in life, according to a new OECD report.
|Education at a Glance 2014 says that educational mobility has started to slow down in the industrialised world. The number of people with lower qualifications than their parents is 9% among 55-64 year-olds to 12% among 35-44 year-olds and 16% among 25-34 year-olds.
At the same time, among the younger age group of 25-34 year-olds, where the tertiary attainment rate had risen to 43%, the impact of parents’ educational background was just as strong: of adults with at least one tertiary-educated parent, 65% attained a tertiary qualification, while of the adults with low-educated parents only 23% did. These data suggest that the expansion in education has not translated into a more inclusive society.
“Education can lift people out of poverty and social exclusion, but to do so we need to break the link between social background and educational opportunity,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “The biggest threat to inclusive growth is the risk that social mobility could grind to a halt. Increasing access to education for everyone and continuing to improve people’s skills will be essential to long-term prosperity and a more cohesive society.”
The report shows that higher levels of education and skills pay off more than ever before – in employment and earnings, and in many social outcomes, such as health. On average across OECD countries, 5% of 25-64 year-olds with a tertiary degree are unemployed compared to 14% of those without an upper secondary education; in 2000, the gap between the two groups was four percentage points less.
New data on earnings also point to a widening gap between the educational “haves” and “have-nots”: the relative income gap between mid-educated and high-educated adults also grew twice as much as the gap between mid-educated and low-educated adults between 2000 and 2012. This means that, in relative terms, mid-educated adults have moved closer in income to those with low levels of education, suggesting that the middle-classes are falling further behind.
The report analyses the education systems of the 34 OECD member countries, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
From school to work
In the classroom
Further information on Education at a Glance, including country notes, multilingual summaries and key data, is available at www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm.
Journalists are invited to contact Andreas Schleicher (tel. + 33 1 45 24 93 66) in the OECD’s Education and Skills Directorate or Spencer Wilson of the OECD’s Media Division. The report is available to journalists on the OECD’s password-protected site.