Showing posts with label education indicators in focus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education indicators in focus. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Is more time spent in the classroom helpful for learning?

by Dirk Van Damme
Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress division, Directorate for Education and Skills



In OECD countries, between the ages of 6 and 15 – this is the age-bracket covered by compulsory education, including primary and lower secondary education – children are supposed to spend their days at school. All countries attach great value to schooling and expect children to learn the foundation skills during their time spent in formalised instruction. Therefore, one would expect there to be a shared view on how much time exactly children should spend in school.

The most recent issue of the Education Indicators in Focus series shows however that there is actually no common view. The data on the total number of instructions hours in primary and lower secondary education per country (see chart above) show a surprising variation in the number of hours OECD countries expect children to be at school. The OECD average total intended instruction time is 7 751 hours, but the instruction-time requirements range from 6 054 hours in Hungary to 10 710 hours in Australia. This means that the total time Hungarian children spend in school is only 56.5% of what their Australian peers have to spend. Even if we forget the outliers, we cannot ignore that the discrepancies between countries with very similar educational systems and histories are striking: the total intended instruction time in the Flemish Community of Belgium is only 71.5% of that in the Netherlands. And yet, both countries’ educational systems share many features and are performing very similarly in many educational outcome measures.

How much does instruction time actually matter then? Comparing country-level data on instruction time with PISA 2012 data on learning outcomes for mathematics does not seem to support the hypothesis that more instruction time leads to better student learning outcomes. As far as there is any relationship, it actually goes the other way: the 10 countries with the highest instruction time have a mean PISA score for mathematics, which is 20 score-points below that of the 10 countries with the lowest amount of instruction time. More than 2 700 hours of instruction in primary and lower secondary education do not seem to make a difference in learning outcomes at the end of that period. And at first sight more instruction time does not help reducing the proportion of low-achieving students either: the 10 countries with the highest number of instruction hours have 47% of 15 year-olds achieving at or below level 2 on the PISA math scale, compared with 40% for the 10 countries with the lowest amount of intended instruction time. It is likely that the amount of instruction time educational systems have settled on is related in quite complex ways to historical patterns and social conditions in countries. Or it may be a mere product of pure coincidence and tradition having gradually lost its social significance and relevance.

Of course, children do many more things than just sitting in the classroom, and they learn through many more daily activities than just going to school. After all, total instruction time in schools comprises an estimated 15% of total non-sleeping time of children aged between 6 and 15. From a learning perspective the remaining 85% is interesting. Some activities are school-related, such as homework, others expand formal learning into parallel environments, such as private tutoring or music lessons. In some countries these activities significantly increase the formal learning time beyond school-based instruction.  Children also participate in non-formal learning, such as sports, youth work and cultural activities. We should also not forget that children need time to play with friends, to engage in family time with parents and siblings, to learn from surfing the internet, to participate in social media, to watch television or just to enjoy being on their own. Very little is known about this crucial dimension of time of children and how it may contribute to learning. But several countries – mainly European ones such as Germany, Belgium, Austria, Nordic countries, etc. – who do not consider a very long school day for children as optimal for learning and well-being, attach great importance to safeguarding children’s play-time and joyful informal learning.

Completely different views on children’s learning time exist as well. In some countries activists and movements concerned with maximising learning opportunities for disadvantaged children seek to increase school-based instruction time, because they think it’s the only way to offer more favourable learning conditions to disadvantaged kids than the home or the street. Historically, this thinking aligns with some of the considerations which led to the implementation of compulsory education legislation one century ago.

There are many good reasons to bring children together in schools to offer them a powerful learning environment. But there doesn’t seem to be a shared view on exactly how much time children should spend in schools.

Links:
Education Indicators in Focus, Issue No. 22, by Eric Charbonnier and Nhung Truong
On this topic, visit:
Education Indicators in Focus: www.oecd.org/education/indicators
On the OECD’s education indicators, visit:
Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators: www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm


Friday, March 28, 2014

Higher but also more flexible teacher salaries

by Dirk Van Damme
Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress division, Directorate for Education and Skills



 
If one were to ask today’s education ministers which topics were at the forefront of their mind, they would almost certainly refer to the quality of the teaching work force in their country. Countries have been looking towards combination of ‘carrot’ and ‘stick’ policies to address quality concerns regarding teachers. ‘Stick’ policies mainly include strengthening accountability and teacher evaluation procedures, sometimes linked to student achievement measures. But many countries understand that tightening the screws on teachers might not be the best answer;  the attractiveness of the teaching profession also comes into play. They are concerned that they don’t get the most promising students in teacher training, that they don’t recruit the best graduates in the teaching profession, and that many of them leave the profession too soon. And several countries fear being confronted with / the confrontation of teacher shortages in specific subject fields, but also more generally as the ageing teaching work force will result in important replacement problems in the near future.  A bigger ‘carrot’ might also be part of the solution.

The compensation of professionals is a complex issue, with many costs and benefits entering the equation of the relative attractiveness of a profession in an increasingly competitive market. Salaries are seen as part of the full package which also includes medical insurance, pensions, etc. In the case of the teaching profession, several secondary benefits – such as the work-life balance or the autonomy in the time-organisation of the tasks in relationship to the overall work load –play an important role in the  student’s decision-making. But the monetary compensation in the form of salaries is a crucial component of the package.

The most recent issue of the Education Indicators in Focus series provides the comparative statistical evidence on the salaries of teachers. The positive side of the picture is that in virtually all OECD countries, teachers’ salaries increased in real terms between 2000 and 2011. This trend coincided with a general rise in the qualifications needed to enter the teaching profession. However, the brief also shows enormous/ significant differences between countries in the relative pay of teachers, measured against the salaries of tertiary qualified professionals in general. As the graph above shows some countries pay their teachers up to 30% more than the average for tertiary educated professionals, but there are many more which pay them up to 30% less. The OECD average for upper secondary teachers is 89% of that benchmark salary. For lower-secondary school teachers it is 85% and for primary school teachers it is 82%.

Even if partially compensated with various other benefits, these figures do not support  the claim that teachers are among the better paid professionals. Their level of monetary compensation does not match the increasing social expectations and demands being placed on teachers or the ambitions of policy makers to recruit future teachers in the upper ratio of skills distribution of tertiary qualified graduates. Budgetary concerns, with which many countries are confronted, preclude massive increases in the short term. The expectation that a demographic decline in the size of the student population would create some room for salary increases, did not materialize due to a higher participation to education as a result of the economic crisis. Still, it is difficult to see how countries will be able to resolve their concerns in regard to teacher recruitment, without including higher compensation in the package of teacher policies.

The brief also reveals another important point: the rigidity of the salary structure of teachers. Statutory salaries are mainly determined by the level of education and by the age of teachers, formal criterions for which the rationality is difficult to ascertain (why should a primary school teacher be less educated and less well paid than an upper secondary one?). There still seems to be very little diversification or flexibility in the compensation of teachers. This fact is at odds with developments in other highly educated professions. The role of remuneration in the attractiveness of the teaching profession is perhaps not so much determined by its average level, but instead by the more specific relationship of salaries and tasks and demands, as well as the way teachers can positively influence their salaries through excellent performance. Countries should use salary flexibility to address specific policy concerns, such as recruiting/placing the best teachers in the most demanding schools. Teachers deserve a better compensation, but excellent teachers in demanding jobsare the most deserving.

Links:
Education Indicators in Focus, issue No. 21, Eric Charbonnier
International Summit on the Teaching Profession 2014
On this topic, visit:
Education Indicators in Focus: www.oecd.org/education/indicators
On the OECD’s education indicators, visit:
Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators: www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm
Related blog post:
The ever growing generation gap in the classroom, Dirk Van Damme

Chart source: OECD Education at a Glance 2013: Indicator D3.1  (www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The ever growing generation gap in the classroom

by Dirk Van Damme
Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress division, Directorate for Education and Skills


It is perfectly normal that teachers and students are not of the same age. In contrast to other public services, it is a distinctive feature of education that the professionals, i.e. the teachers, are older than their clients, i.e. the students. One could think of education as an institutionalised dialogue between generations, as a social space in which they interact. Through education, societies transmit the knowledge, skills, culture and values of a society from one generation to another. Nevertheless, students are not just passive recipients of former generations’ knowledge and values, but also transform and build upon them, thus influencing the development of societies. Especially in a period of rapid social change, the dialogue between generations is critical to ensure that no generation gets left behind. Across OECD countries, some schools take this role very seriously and even try to organise opportunities for individuals of all ages to meet and exchange, for example by inviting grandparents to school or by welcoming senior members of the community to interact with younger students.

From an educational point of view, the age of teachers is an important variable in the quality of teaching and learning environments. Ideally, students should be able to interact with a variety of generations of teachers. Each age group adds a specific dimension to the learning process. Older teachers bring quality associated with their experience, both with regard to professional experience and wider life experience. And younger teachers bring innovation associated with recent training and the enthusiasm of youth itself. Adolescents generally connect and identify better with younger teachers and expect that they will have a greater understanding of their lifeworld and the challenges related to growing up in modern societies. Education systems benefit from a balanced age distribution among teachers.

The new issue of the Education Indicators in Focus series presents the most recent statistical evidence on the age of teachers. The data show a worrisome trend. The average age of teachers in secondary schools across OECD countries continues to increase. A male secondary school teacher’s age was 44 on average in 2000; and 45 in 2011. For a female secondary school teacher, the average age in 2000 was 42, while it was 43 in 2011. Correspondingly, the share of older teachers (>50 years old) in the teaching work force also increased. Among secondary school teachers, the share of older teachers increased from 35% to 39% for males, and from 28% to 34% for females. These changes may not seem very dramatic, but they imply that every year a typical secondary school teacher is one month older than the year before. Differences between countries are large: in 2011, 55% of the male secondary school teachers in Germany were over age 50, 52% in Iceland, 55% in The Netherlands and even 67% in Italy.

An ageing teaching force leads to various policy challenges, such as upward pressures on the salary mass, peaks in teacher replacement and recruitment, or increased needs to invest in training and professional development. From an economic point of view, countries would be better off with a more balanced age distribution of teachers. But maybe more important are the implications for the quality of the teaching and learning process. Older teachers have the experiential knowledge and skills which potentially make them excellent teachers. But if the professional development is lacking to enrich their experiential knowledge and skills with the best recent research and evidence from innovative practice, older teachers risk sticking to what has worked well in the past and may have the tendency to sidestep innovation.

No one would accept being treated in hospital by a medical doctor who would not have updated his knowledge and skills since he or she left college 20 years ago. The teaching profession also would benefit from balancing experiential knowledge embodied by older teachers and innovation-oriented, research-informed knowledge which comes with younger teachers. In order to connect and identify with schooling, adolescent students need teachers who can read and understand their behaviour, their issues, their culture and values, teachers whose world view is not too remote from their own. It is difficult to imagine that, with more than half of their teachers 35 years older than they are, adolescent students can identify with school and engage in high-quality teaching and interactive learning.

Links:
Education Indicators in Focus, issue No. 20, Dirk Van Damme
On this topic, visit:
Education Indicators in Focus: www.oecd.org/education/indicators
On the OECD’s education indicators, visit:
Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators: www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm
Chart source: OECD Education at a Glance 2013, Indicator D5 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888932851991)

Thursday, March 06, 2014

What’s at the root of women’s absence in STEM occupations?

by Marilyn Achiron
Editor, Directorate for Education and Skills

If you sift through all the education data the OECD has produced over the past year, you’ll come up with decidedly mixed results when it comes to women’s (and girls’) progress. Education at a Glance 2013 told us that gender gaps in educational attainment are not only narrowing, but are, in some cases, reversing, and that women are now more likely than men to enter and complete a university-level programme. Results from the first Survey of Adult Skills, a product of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), found that gender differences in the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) have narrowed considerably among 16-24 year-olds, and that, among younger adults, there is, on average, no gender difference in proficiency in numeracy or literacy. In fact, in those countries where there is a difference between young men’s and young women’s levels of literacy, it is young women who score higher.

So, given these data, we have reason to be optimistic.

Unfortunately, this is only part of the story; there are also some other data to consider: Education at a Glance revealed that, among tertiary-educated adults, women still earn less than men (only in Austria, Belgium, Finland, New Zealand, Slovenia and Spain do the earnings of tertiary-educated women amount to 75% or more of men’s earnings; in Brazil, Chile and Estonia, university-educated women earn 65% or less of what similarly educated men earn). What might explain these gender-related disparities in pay?

As the publication also reported, women are still less likely than men to work full time; and 15-29 year-old women are twice as likely as men the same age to be neither in the labour force nor looking for a job. Meanwhile, the Survey of Adult Skills found that in all countries that participated in the survey, similar proportions of men (36%) as women (32%) are proficient in using ICTs. But the survey also found that in 15 of 23 participating countries, men use ICT at work significantly more often than women do – and that the extent to which problem-solving skills are used at work accounts for nearly half the gender gap in wages.

One of the most troubling of findings comes from the PISA 2012 survey of 15-year-old students. Based on information gathered from students through questionnaires, PISA found that, even among the highest-achieving girls (many of whom perform just as well as boys in mathematics), girls have self-sabotaging attitudes towards mathematics: they are more likely to feel anxious towards mathematics, and have less confidence in their own mathematical skills and in their ability to solve mathematics problems than boys.

These attitudes have repercussions later on, as can be seen in other data from Education at a Glance. That publication reports that, in 2011, an average of only 14% of women entering university-level education enrolled in science-related fields (which include science and engineering) or in manufacturing and construction, compared to 39% of men who entered this level of education in these fields. If so few women aim for the so-called STEM professions (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), there will continue to be few role models in these fields for young girls to emulate, and the cycle will simply perpetuate itself.

What all these data, combined, tell us is that we have no reason to be complacent. The gender gap in students’ self-beliefs about their abilities in mathematics has remained stable in most countries since 2003. In the short term, changing these mindsets may require making mathematics more interesting to girls, identifying and eliminating gender stereotypes in textbooks, promoting female role models, and using learning materials that appeal to girls. Over the longer term, shrinking the gender gap in mathematics performance will require the concerted effort of parents, teachers and society, as a whole, to change the clichéd notions of what boys and girls excel at, what they enjoy doing, and what they believe they can achieve.

Girls and women have made genuine and enormous gains in education and in the labour force over the past half century; but as long as girls continue to tell themselves that they’re no good at math – or science or engineering or any other subject where men have traditionally dominated – even in the face of hard evidence to the contrary, then we’re still losing half of our talent to the destructive power of stereotypes.

Links:
Wikigender
International Women's Day
OECD Gender Data Portal
OECD Insights Blog: Gender Quiz
Are boys and girls equally prepared for life?
Photo credit: Moscow, USSR - Circa 1920s students-biologists conduct a scientific experiment / @shutterstock

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Students’ choices today shape tomorrow’s skills pool

by Dirk Van Damme
Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress division, Directorate for Education and Skills



One of the most decisive decisions taken in the course of a person’s life is choosing the field of study when entering higher education. This decision may be influenced by a variety of factors: family, social and economic background; cultural preferences among peers; values and belief systems; or even moral, political or ideological viewpoints. Preceding choices made during transitions in secondary school, have gradually narrowed the options available. Conflicting messages from employers, labour market agencies, governments and intermediary advisory bodies can impact the choices students make as well.

Nonetheless, students – mostly at the age of 18 – still have a fairly broad range of options to choose from. And today’s students no longer want to be the passive and obedient followers of antecedents, decisions made by others or well-intended advice. This is a decisive moment in which they take their own life in their own hands. Research on choice behaviour of students indicates that objective information, advice from teachers and counsellors or labour market prospects, do not have as much of an impact on the decision-making process as personal preferences and interests.

The latest issue of the Education Indicators in Focus series (No. 19) highlights the fields of study chosen by new entrants to higher education in OECD countries. The chart above illustrates that in European countries social studies, which includes business and law, is by far is the most frequently chosen field of study. On average, 32% of new entrants across OECD countries enrol in programmes in this field. Only in Finland and Korea is engineering, manufacturing and construction a more popular choice. In contrast, the field of natural sciences attracts only a small minority of students.

One of the most important dimensions in choice patterns is gender. The rapid increase in the number of female students has not yet altered the gender imbalances in certain fields of study, and on the contrary seems to have deepened them. Only 14% of female students enter a sciences programme, in contrast with 39% of male students. In contrast, education, health and welfare paint the opposite picture.

Students perceive their choices as purely individual decisions. And they make their choice with the optimistic belief that they will succeed in life, whatever the demands of the labour market. Yet, on an aggregate level they add up to a country’s future pool of human capital. The supply of high-level qualifications and skills is structured by a gendered partition between disciplines, each with their own specific configuration of skills and body of knowledge. The structure of human capital determines a country’s future range of possibilities in terms of economic and social development. Mismatches will always exist, but if they become large enough, a country has no alternative than to counterbalance this through high-skilled immigration. Countries acknowledge this risk and do take action to shift student choice patterns in a more desirable direction, by encouraging students, especially female students, to join STEM fields. These are all laudable and necessary actions, but it is unlikely that they will be able to significantly align student choices with future labour demand.

Even in the case of structural skills mismatch, the profile of a country’s future human capital should not be seen as a fatal verdict. Skills development is a dynamic process. Choices made at age 18 are important, but they do not condemn individuals or countries. Labour mobility across sectors and professions is an important phenomenon in today’s economies. New industries and occupations generate jobs and often recruit from various disciplines and professional backgrounds or bring new professions to life. (Why are there so many philosophers in the IT-industry?) Countries can prepare for future opportunities for growth by strengthening transversal skills in curricula, by fostering entrepreneurship and flexibility, and also by improving access to continuing education and training. Ultimately students have their own preferences when choosing a field of study and countries must cope with the outcomes of seemingly irrational choices.

Links:
Education Indicators in Focus, issue No. 19, by David Valenciano
On this topic, visit:
Education Indicators in Focus: www.oecd.org/education/indicators 
On the OECD’s education indicators, visit:
Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators: www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm

Chart source: OECD Education at a Glance 2013: Indicator C3 (www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cutting education expenditure

by Dirk Van Damme
Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress division, Directorate for Education and Skills


Education systems, for the greatest part funded by the public purse, have a symbiotic relationship with economic tides: they blossom in booming years, they suffer in recessions. Educational needs however behave exactly in the opposite way: they expand when the economy shrinks. The recent recession, probably the biggest many of us have seen in our lifetimes, again provides ample evidence for this. And the relationship is now even more pronounced than ever before. Education and skills have moved into the centre of economic life, as economies become increasingly knowledge- and skills-based. Unemployment clearly separates the educational haves and have-nots, with the unskilled paying the price for the recession. As a result, people want to invest more in education, stay longer in schools, and postpone their entry into the labour market, because work doesn’t offer much of an alternative. Also governments promote education and training as a strategy to drive people out of unemployment.

Thus demand increases, but do schools receive the public resources to meet this demand? The latest issue of Education Indicators in Focus builds on the available evidence on public expenditure in education for the first three years of the crisis (2008, 2009 and 2010) to shed light on spending trends and the first clear signs of widespread cuts.

In the first year after the collapse of Lehmann Brothers, which instigated the financial crisis in 2008, not much happened. Probably, this is partly due to the intrinsic slowness of public budgets and of the education system in itself. But in the first year, the financial crisis was not yet a fiscal crisis in most countries. And some governments initiated huge stimulus programmes to avert the social impact of the crisis, and also education often took profit from such initiatives. In other countries the rise in educational expenditure, noticeable during the pre-crisis boom, just continued.

Things changed from 2009 onwards, when in around one third of OECD countries public expenditure on education dropped. The downturn in the real economy triggered a fiscal crisis, aggravated in countries with already huge levels of public debt. From 2010 onwards the fiscal situation further deteriorated in quite a number of countries. Governments were forced to launch austerity and fiscal consolidation policies. Between 2008 and 2010 education budgets continued to increase in constant prices in most countries, but their relative share of total public expenditure started to fall in exactly half of the countries. Education no longer was as high on the priority ranking in public spending as it was in the years 2000-2008.

Of course, education takes a large share of public expenditure: 13.1% of all public expenditure on average across OECD countries in 2005. So, to exempt education from public expenditure cuts takes a lot of political courage. And because of its size relatively even minor measures immediately result in huge nominal savings. So, it is a tempting scenario for any finance minister. Many also share the belief that there is a lot of internal elasticity or even inefficiency in the system, which can be reduced by increasing budgetary pressure.

In any case, the salaries of teachers – by far taking the largest share of public expenditure – were immediately affected: on average across OECD countries, teachers’ salaries decreased by 2% in real terms between 2009 and 2011. After years of salary gains in most countries, this might seem a rather marginal drop. But the value of it is real and, no doubt, the downward trend will continue in the following years. Seen against the higher demand, but also taking into account the political ambitions to improve the quality of education by investing in teachers, this is a significant sign.

For more information
On this topic, visit:
Education Indicators in Focus: www.oecd.org/education/indicators
On the OECD’s education indicators, visit:
Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators: www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm
Chart source: OECD Education at a Glance 2013: Indicator B4 (www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Higher education: a good long-term investment?

by J.D. LaRock
Senior Analyst, Innovation and Measuring Progress Division, Directorate for Education


As any student can attest, pursuing a higher education requires an investment in time, effort – and in a number of OECD countries, significant financial resources.  But the economic costs of higher education go beyond tuition fees.  Because people with higher education tend to have higher earnings, they’re likely to pay more in income taxes and social welfare contributions.  There’s also the “opportunity cost” of foregone earnings when people enter university instead of the labour market.

Given these long-term economic costs, do the long-term economic benefits of having a higher education make it worthwhile?  As the latest issue of the OECD’s brief series Education Indicators in Focus details, analyses based on the most recent year of available data – 2007 for most countries – suggest that the return on investment is very good.

For example, the long-term economic advantage of having a tertiary degree instead of an upper secondary degree, minus the associated costs, is over USD 175 000 for a man and just over USD 110 000 for a woman, on average across OECD countries. The payoff is particularly strong for men in Italy, Korea, Portugal and the United States, where obtaining a higher education degree generates a long-term benefit of more than  USD 300 000 for the average man, compared to a man with an upper secondary education only.

Meanwhile, the advantage for women is strongest in Ireland, Korea, Portugal, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, where having a tertiary education yields an average long-term benefit of USD 150 000 or more, compared to a woman with an upper secondary education.

As the chart above shows, OECD analyses also find that the long-term payoff on the amount of taxpayer funds used to support people in higher education generates a strong return.  Taxpayer costs include funds used to lower the direct costs of higher education to individuals, as well as support for grant and loan programs.  They also include indirect costs, such as foregone tax revenues and social contributions to the government while people are in university.

On average, OECD countries directly invest more than USD 30 000 in public sector funds to support an individual pursuing higher education.  However, they’ll recoup this investment – and then some – through greater tax revenues from these higher-educated people, as well as savings from the lower level of social transfers these people typically receive.

On average, OECD countries will receive a net return of USD 91 000 on the public costs to support a man in tertiary education – more than three times the amount of the public investment. In Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia and the United States, this return is especially high, topping USD 150 000.  The net return on the public costs to support a woman in higher education is somewhat lower – USD 55 000, on average – but are still positive in almost every OECD country.

Of course, the fallout from the global economic crisis will likely change this cost-benefit equation – but whether it will make it better or worse overall is unclear. For example, the higher unemployment rates spurred by the crisis are likely to have reduced the opportunity cost of foregoing work in order to attend university.  However, they also may have reduced some of the benefits of having a higher education, because unemployment rates rose among tertiary-educated people during the crisis.

Likewise, the continued global expansion of higher education could have different effects.  As the supply of highly-educated individuals grows, the relative economic benefits of having a tertiary education may go down over time.  However, if economies continue to become more knowledge-based – increasing the demand for highly-educated people even more – the economic benefits of higher education could continue to expand.

For more information
On the OECD’s education indicators, visit:
Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators www.oecd.org/edu/eag2011
On the OECD’s Indicators of Education Systems (INES) programme, visit:
INES Programme overview brochure
See also: IMHE General Conference 2012 "Attaining and Sustaining Mass Higher Education", Paris, 17-19 September 2012


Chart Source: Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators, Indicator A9 (www.oecd.org/edu/eag2011).
Note: Data for Australia, Belgium and Turkey refer to 2005. Data for Italy, the Netherlands, Poland,
Portugal and the United Kingdom refer to 2006. All other data refer to 2007.
Countries are ranked in descending order of the net present value.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How can education help tackle rising income inequality?

By Ji Eun Chung
Innovation and Measuring Progress Division, Directorate for Education
See instructions below for how to read the chart
The gap between the rich and poor has widened in OECD countries over the past 30 years. As the latest issue of the OECD’s new brief series Education Indicators in Focus describes, the average income of the richest 10% of people in OECD countries was about nine times greater than the income of the poorest 10% before the onset of the global economic crisis. This ratio was 5 to 1 in the 1980s.

What’s more, existing income inequality may also limit the income prospects of future generations in some countries. In countries with higher income inequality – such as Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States – a child’s future earnings are likely to be similar to his or her father’s, suggesting that socio-economic background plays a large role in the development of children’s skills and abilities. Meanwhile, in countries with lower income inequality – like Denmark, Finland, and Norway – a child’s future income is not as strongly related to his or her family’s income status. In these countries, the development of children’s skills and abilities has a weaker link with socio-economic factors.

The implications for education policy are clear. Education policies focusing on equity in education may be a particularly useful way for countries to increase earnings mobility between generations and reduce income inequality over time. Countries can work towards this goal by giving equal opportunities to both disadvantaged and advantaged students to achieve strong academic outcomes – laying a pathway for them to continue on to higher levels of education and eventually secure good jobs.

Four top performers on the 2009 PISA reading assessment show the potential of this approach. Canada, Finland, Japan, and Korea all have education systems that put a strong focus on equity – and all have yielded promising results. In each of these countries, relatively few students performed at lower proficiency levels on the PISA reading assessment, and high proportions of students performed better than would be expected, given their socio-economic background.

Yet while each of these countries focuses on equity, they’ve pursued it in different ways. In Japan and Korea, for example, teachers and principals are often reassigned to different schools, fostering more equal distribution of the most capable teachers and school leaders. Finnish schools assign specially-trained teachers to support struggling students who are at risk of dropping out. The teaching profession is a highly selective occupation in Finland, with highly-skilled, well-trained teachers spread throughout the country. In Canada, equal or greater educational resources – such as supplementary classes – are provided to immigrant students, compared to non-immigrant students. This is believed to have boosted immigrant students’ performance.

Income inequality is a challenging issue that demands a wide range of solutions. In a world of growing inequality, focusing on equity in education may be an effective approach to tackle it over the long run.

For more information
On this topic, visit:
Education Indicators in Focus: www.oecd.org/education/indicators
Equity and Quality in Education - Supporting Disadvantaged Students and Schools
On the OECD’s education indicators, visit:
Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators: www.oecd.org/edu/eag2011
Divided we stand: Why inequality keeps rising: www.oecd.org/els/social/inequality
On the OECD’s Indicators of Education Systems (INES) programme, visit:
INES Programme overview brochure

Chart source: Source: D'Addio (2012, forthcoming), “Social Mobility in OECD countries: Evidence and Policy Implications”; OECD (2008), Growing Unequal?, www.oecd.org/els/social/inequality/GU; OECD Income distribution database.


How to read the chart: This chart shows the relationship between earnings mobility between generations of a family, and the prevalence of income inequality in different countries. Overall, countries with higher levels of income inequality tend to have lower earnings mobility between generations, while countries with lower levels of income inequality tend to have higher earnings mobility.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Women’s outcomes in education and employment: strong gains, but more to do

by Éric Charbonnier and Corinne Heckmann
Innovation and Measuring Progress Division, Directorate for Education


There’s no denying it: when it comes to education and employment, women are on a roll, all over the world.  As described in the latest issue of the OECD’s new brief series Education Indicators in Focus, the achievement gap between boys and girls has narrowed so much at lower levels of education that the focus of concern is now on the underachievement of boys.  On the 2009 PISA reading assessment, for example, 15-year-old girls outperformed boys in every OECD country, on average by 39 points – the equivalent of one year of school.

Young women are also making strong progress in higher education in OECD countries.  In 2000, 51% percent of women could be expected to enter a university-level programme at some point in their lives; today, the number is 66%.  In fact, the proportion of women who hold a university-level qualification now equals or exceeds that of men in 29 of the 32 OECD countries for which data are comparable. This figure is below 50% only in China, Japan, Korea and Turkey.

At the same time, still more can be done to improve outcomes for girls and young women in the classroom.  In mathematics, for example, 15-year-old boys tend to perform slightly better than girls in most countries, while science performance is more variable.  And in higher education, women remain under-represented at the most advanced levels.  Across all OECD countries, less than half of advanced research qualifications such as doctorates were awarded to women in 2009.  In Japan and Korea, the figure is only around 30%.  This pattern holds in all countries except Brazil, Finland, Iceland, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal and the United States.

In addition, some fields of study are still branded as “masculine” or “feminine”. In 2009, more than 70% of higher education students in the field of education were women, and an average of 75% of the degrees in the fields of health and welfare also went to women. By contrast, in most countries, fewer than 30% of all graduates in the fields of engineering, manufacturing and construction were women.

Nonetheless, women’s strides in education have led to improved labour market outcomes for women overall. For instance, the gender gap in employment narrowed from 25 percentage points in 2000 to 21 percentage points in 2009 among those without an upper secondary qualification, and from 19 percentage points in 2000 to 15 percentage points in 2009 among those with an upper secondary qualification. And it’s narrower still among those with a higher education qualification, shrinking from 11 percentage points in 2000 to 9 percentage points in 2009.

Increasingly, OECD countries are doing more to address gender gaps – both in education and employment.  For example, in the Czech Republic, Germany and the Slovak Republic, the proportion of women graduating with science degrees grew by more than 10 percentage points between 2000 and 2009.  As a result, these countries are now closer to the OECD average of 40% -- a figure that has remained stable over the past decade. In 2000, the European Union announced a goal to increase the number of university graduates in mathematics, science and technology by at least 15% by 2010, and to reduce the gender imbalance in these subjects. So far, however, progress toward this goal has been marginal.

On the employment side, the Nordic countries, Germany and Portugal have instituted policies allowing fathers to receive parental leave and income support so their spouses can remain in the workforce.  In Iceland, Norway and Spain, some firms are required to have at least 40% of their boardroom seats assigned to women. Meanwhile, other companies, such as Deutsche Telekom, have introduced voluntary quotas for women in management and family-friendly practices such as flex-times and tele-working.

The bottom line is clear: while girls and women have made strong gains, it’s time to finish the job.  To promote gender equality even further, policymakers should be encouraged to pursue policies to increase mathematics and science performance among girls – as well as reading achievement among boys.  Meanwhile, initiatives to break down gender stereotypes in fields of study and progressive corporate policies can do more to increase women’s employment opportunities.


For more information
On this topic, visit:
Education Indicators in Focus
OECD Gender Initiative
www.oecd.org/gender/equality
On the OECD’s education indicators, visit:
Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators
www.oecd.org/edu/eag2011
On the OECD’s Indicators of Education Systems (INES) programme, visit:
INES Programme overview brochure
Chart source: OECD Education Database

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Higher education: an insurance policy against global downturns

by J.D. LaRock
Senior Analyst, Innovation and Measuring Progress Division, Directorate for Education
During the first two years of the economic crisis, unemployment
was higher among adults with less education, on average across the OECD zone.
With all the economic turmoil of the past several years, have you ever wished you could buy an insurance policy to protect against the effects of a global recession?  Well, such a insurance policy already exists – and it’s called higher education.  During the first two years of the global economic crisis, in country after country, people with a tertiary (higher) education were much less likely to be unemployed, much more likely to be participating in the labour force, and more likely to have higher earnings, compared to their less-educated counterparts.

These and other findings are discussed in the first issue of the OECD’s new education brief series, Education Indicators in Focus.

As the crisis ramped up in 2008 and continued in 2009, unemployment rates increased across the board in OECD countries. However, the impact was much greater for adults without an upper secondary education. Among this group, unemployment rates rose from an already high 8.7% to 11.5%, and jumped five percentage points or more in Estonia, Ireland, Spain and the United States.  Adults with an upper secondary or equivalent level of education fared somewhat better: among this group, unemployment rates rose from 4.9% to 6.8% between 2008 and 2009 across the OECD zone.  However, in Estonia, Ireland, Spain and Turkey, jobless rates reached 10% or more for this group of people – a mark generally regarded as troublingly high territory for unemployment.

By contrast, people with a tertiary education were the best protected against unemployment during the thick of the global recession. Overall, unemployment rates in OECD countries ticked up just 1.1 percentage points for this group between 2008 and 2009, from 3.3% to 4.4%.  Moreover, 2009 unemployment rates remained at 5% or less for tertiary-educated people in 24 out of 34 OECD countries, and surpassed 8% in only two – Spain and Turkey.

Employment figures tell a similar story: during the crisis year of 2009, people with higher education not only had less trouble finding a job, but also had an easier time keeping the job they had.  Across all OECD countries, 83.6% of adults with a tertiary education were employed in 2009, compared to 74.2% of adults with an upper secondary or equivalent education, and just 56.0% of adults without an upper secondary education.  While a number of factors contribute to the level of adults’ participation in the labour force, higher employment rates for people with more education point to a better match between the skills these individuals possess and the skills the labour market demands, even during periods of economic crisis.

What’s more, the sizeable earnings premium that university-educated people typically enjoy in the labour market held strong during the crisis years of 2008 and 2009.  In 2008, among 14 OECD countries with comparable data, the typical employee with higher education earned 56% more than the typical employee with an upper secondary or equivalent education.  Even in the face of the economic crisis, this premium increased slightly to 57% in 2009. By contrast, the typical employee without an upper secondary education earned 23% less than a corresponding worker with an upper secondary education in 2008 – and this earnings penalty remained the same in 2009.

Having a higher education isn’t fail-safe protection from the consequences of a global economic downturn.  But like any good insurance policy, it can help people recover when bad things happen to them.  And with the economic outlook for 2012 looking as uncertain as it does, that’s no small comfort.

For more information
Education Indicators in Focus
Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators www.oecd.org/edu/eag2011
OECD’s Indicators of Education Systems (INES) programme (Brochure PDF 2.3 KB)

Chart source: Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators, Indicator A7.