24/11/2015 - Governments need to tackle persistent inequalities in education and focus on improving efficiencies in their education systems in order to ensure that every child, whatever their background, can realise their full potential and benefit from a good education, according to a new OECD report.
Education at a Glance 2015 reveals the rapid progress made in expanding education over the past 25 years, with around 41% of 25-34 year-olds now having a tertiary qualification. But inequalities still persist in education, with serious consequences for labour markets and economies. In 2014, less than 60% of adults without an upper secondary education were in work, compared to over 80% of tertiary-educated adults.
Educational inequalities also affect earnings, with adults who have attained tertiary education 23 percentage points more likely to be among the 25% highest paid adults than adults with an upper secondary education.
“The dream of ‘quality education for all’ is not yet a reality,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría at the launch of the report in Paris. “Lack of a quality education is the most powerful form of social exclusion and prevents people from benefitting from economic growth and social progress.” Read the speech.
Inequalities in initial education continue to unfold throughout people’s lives, notably in access to lifelong learning: about 60% of workers in the most skilled occupations participate in employer-sponsored education, while only 26% of workers in elementary occupations do.
This year’s edition of Education at a Glance also reveals the difficulties that governments face in financing education. Between 2010 and 2012, GDP began to rise again in most countries, and public spending on primary to tertiary educational institutions fell in more than one in three OECD countries, including Australia, Canada, Estonia, France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and the United States.
Amid budget cuts at primary and secondary levels, most governments have chosen to reduce teacher salaries rather than increase class sizes. But evidence from the OECD’s PISA programme reveals that high-performing countries, such as Finland, Japan or Korea, prioritise teaching and teachers over infrastructure and class sizes.
The number of countries showing an increase in salaries, in real terms, shrank to about one in two OECD countries between 2008 and 2013. On average across the OECD, pre-primary and primary teachers earn 78% of the salary of a similarly-educated, full-time worker; lower secondary teachers are paid 80% and upper secondary teachers 82% of that benchmark salary.
These uncompetitive salaries will make it harder to attract the best candidates to the teaching profession, especially as the teaching workforce is ageing, with 35% of secondary school teachers at least 50 years old in 2013. That proportion rose by 3 percentage points between 2005 and 2013. The increase was 10 percentage points or more in Greece, Korea, Portugal and Slovenia and 19 points in Austria.
Education at a Glance provides comparable national statistics measuring the state of education worldwide. The report analyses the education systems of the 34 OECD member countries, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
Early childhood education
In the classroom
Further information on Education at a Glance, including country notes, multilingual summaries and key data, is available at: www.oecd.org/education/education-at-a-glance-19991487.htm.
Journalists are invited to contact Andreas Schleicher (tel. + 33 1 45 24 93 66) in the OECD’s Education and Skills Directorate or the OECD’s Media Division (tel. + 33 1 45 24 97 00). The report is available to journalists on the OECD’s password-protected site.