Above and Beyond

ABOVE AND BEYOND: Transitions in upper secondary education

The OECD's Above and Beyond project investigates how learners from different countries transition into, through and out of upper secondary education.

With this understanding governments will be able to develop policies to support all learners in leading fulfilling and productive lives.

Gathering InformationSharing Information

woman in the centre and then people in a circle around her

Above and Beyond collects information about countries' contexts and education systems

three people in a circle with arrows between them

Above and Beyond shares its information with participating countries

Who is expected to enter tertiary education? (Education at a Glance, OECD, 2021)

1. Reference year 2017.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the share of male first-time entrants below the age of 25 in tertiary education in 2019.

Source: OECD/UIS/Eurostat (2021). See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (

What do we study?

Upper secondary education (USE) is widely recognised as the minimum level of education necessary for success in life and work. As USE becomes near-universal, countries are faced with a number of policy questions:

  • How can countries meet the diverse interests and learning levels of adolescents?
  • How to best prepare young people for a highly unpredictable labour market?
  • How can countries provide choice and quality while containing cost?

The vulnerability of young people to the negative economic effects of the COVID pandemic make providing relevant and engaging USE pathways more critical than ever. The key policy issues that this project will examine are:

  • How can pathways and learning programmes effectively meet the immediate and lifelong needs and interests of all students?
  • How can countries help all students to progress through and out of upper secondary education?
  • What system-level capacities are needed to successfully deliver upper secondary education?

What do we produce?

The project will produce original, comparative analysis on how countries can design and develop their upper secondary education systems to best meet student needs.

Specific outputs from the project will include:

  • Country-specific outputs to learn about countries’ systems and promote peer learning, such as:
    - Country reviews, which review a country's upper secondary education system and provide tailored recommendations for the country.
    - An online repository of case studies (policies and practices) from countries.
  • Thematic and comparative outputs to build a comparative evidence base for effective upper secondary education policies, such as:
    - Thematic reports that identif the overall trends in these areas and describe the important considerations that countries should keep in mind as they develop related policies.
    - Thematic perspectives that target specific, cross-national issues or practices such as examinations and certification in the context of COVID-19.
    - Literature reviews that identify key implications for policy making.
  • Meetings that provide countries with an opportunity to steer the project and share insights and experiences. This will include:
    - Regular country representatives meetings which will be open to member countries, OECD Education Policy Committee invitees and participants and other countries whose participation would add value to the project.
    - Peer-learning discussions to bring together country representatives and experts to share experiences and promote learning among countries.

How can countries participate?

Countries can participate in Above and Beyond by contacting us and sharing information about their challenges and policy initiatives. More formally, countries can undertake country reviews, join in peer-learning discussions and attend meetings of country representatives.

Peer learning is an essential component of this project, and the secretariat aims to facilitate knowledge sharing between countries. The OECD will invite countries to participate in each other's country reviews and provide opportunities for countries to present their practices to the larger community as part of meetings and other events.