Highlights from Education at a Glance

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

2076-264X (online)
2076-2631 (print)
Hide / Show Abstract

Highlights from Education at a Glance offers a reader-friendly introduction to the OECD’s collection of internationally comparable data on education. As the name suggests, it is derived from Education at a Glance, the OECD’s flagship compendium of education statistics. However, it differs from that publication in a number of ways, most significantly in its structure, which is made up of five sections that explore the following topics: education levels and student numbers; the economic benefits of education; paying for education;  the school environment; and  TALIS,  OECD's internationally comparative data on conditions of teaching and learning.

In general, this publication uses the same terminology employed in Education at a Glance. However, in one or two places terminology has been simplified. Readers who wish to find out more should consult the Reader’s Guide. Tables and charts in this volume are all accompanied by a dynamic hyperlink, or StatLink, that will direct readers to an Internet site where the corresponding data are available in Excel® format.

Also available in French
Education at a Glance 2011

Education at a Glance 2011

Highlights You or your institution have access to this content

Click to Access: 
  • WEB
  • http://oecd.metastore.ingenta.com/content/9611051e.pdf
  • PDF
  • http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/education-at-a-glance-2011_eag_highlights-2011-en
  • READ
13 Sep 2011
9789264117433 (HTML) ;9789264114210(print)

Hide / Show Abstract

Education at a Glance 2011: Highlights summarises the OECD’s flagship compendium of education statistics, Education at a Glance. It provides easily accessible data on key topics in education today, including:

  • Education levels and student numbers: How far have adults studied, and what access do young people have to education?
  • Economic and social benefits of education: How does education affect people’s job prospects, and what is its impact on incomes?
  • Paying for education: What share of public spending goes on education, and what is the role of private spending? 
  • The school environment: How many hours do teachers work, and how does class size vary? 
  • PISA: A special section introduces findings from the 2009 round of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which examined the knowledge and skills of 15-year-old students in more than 70 countries and economies.

Each indicator is presented on a two-page spread. The left-hand page explains the significance of the indicator, discusses the main findings, examines key trends and provides readers with a roadmap for finding out more in the OECD education databases and in other OECD education publications. The right-hand page contains clearly presented charts and tables, accompanied by dynamic hyperlinks (StatLinks) that direct readers to the corresponding data in Excel™ format.

loader image

Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Table of Contents

  • Mark Click to Access
  • Foreword
    Education at a Glance 2011: Highlights offers a reader-friendly introduction to the OECD’s collection of internationally comparable data on education. As the name suggests, it is derived from Education at a Glance 2011, the OECD’s flagship compendium of education statistics.
  • Reader's Guide
    This section introduces some of the terminology used in this publication, and explains how readers can use the links provided to get further information.
  • Add to Marked List
  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Education Levels and Student Numbers

    • Mark Click to Access
    • To what level have adults studied?
      Education is important for both the present, giving individuals the knowledge and skills to participate fully and effectively in society, and for the future, as it helps expand scientific and cultural knowledge. This spread shows the level to which adults have studied, a measure that is often used as a proxy to illustrate human capital, or the skills available in a population and labour force.
    • Who participates in education?
      A well-educated population is essential for economic and social development; societies therefore have a real interest in ensuring that children and adults have access to a wide range of educational opportunities. This spread examines the evolution in access to education from 1995 to 2009, focusing on the number of young people who continue studying once compulsory education has ended.
    • How many young people finish secondary education?
      This indicator shows how many students finish secondary education. Completing upper secondary education does not in itself guarantee that students are adequately equipped with the basic skills and knowledge necessary to enter the labour market or tertiary studies. However, research has shown that young people in OECD countries who do not finish this level of education face severe difficulties when it comes to finding work. Policy makers are examining ways to reduce the number of early school-leavers, defined as those students who do not complete their upper secondary education. Internationally comparable measures of how many students successfully complete upper secondary programmes – which also imply how many students don’t complete those programmes – can assist efforts to that end.
    • How many young people enter tertiary education?
      This indicator shows how many students will enter a specific type of tertiary education programme during their lifetimes. It also sheds light on the accessibility and perceived value of attending tertiary programmes, and provides some indication of the degree to which a population is acquiring the high-level skills and knowledge valued by today’s labour market. High entry and participation rates in tertiary education imply that a highly educated labour force is being developed and maintained.
    • How many young people graduate from tertiary education?
      Tertiary education serves as an indicator of the capacity at which countries produce advanced knowledge. Countries with high graduation rates at tertiary level are also those most likely to be developing or maintaining a highly skilled labour force. Graduation rates from tertiary education (the structure and scope of which varies widely between countries) are influenced both by the degree of access to tertiary programmes and by the demand for higher skills in the labour market.
    • How many students graduate outside the normal age?
      Students typically graduate from upper secondary education in their late teens and from tertiary education by their mid-20s. However, in a number of countries some students study well beyond these age ranges. While some governments are taking measures to encourage students to make the most of their capacities by moving more rapidly into and through tertiary education, there is also value in ensuring that opportunities exist for people to complete their studies later in life so that they can equip themselves to compete in the labour market.
    • What do students study?
      This spread examines the different fields of study pursued by students. Faced with an economic downturn and shrinking budgets, governments need to invest in the fields of study that develop the competencies needed to respond to labour-market demands. Students’ preferences and abilities, and the cost, duration and location of higher education can all influence the choice of a field of study, as can changes in the labour market. In turn, the relative popularity of various fields of education affects the demand for programmes and teaching staff, as well as the supply of new graduates.
    • How successful are students in moving from education to work?
      The recession that followed the financial crisis of 2008 has led to a big increase in unemployment in OECD countries. When the labour market deteriorates, those making the transition from school to work are often the first to encounter difficulties. This spread looks at the number of years young people can be expected to spend in education, employment and non-employment. In the wake of the economic crisis, long-term unemployment among young adults is likely to rise in most countries, especially for those who have not completed upper secondary education.
    • How many adults take part in education and training?
      Continuing education and training for adults is essential to upgrade workers’ skills and enhance an economy’s overall skill level. This is especially important as economies grapple with trends such as globalisation, changing technologies, the shift from manufacturing to services and more flexible management practices that increase the responsibility of lower-level workers. Changing demographics are also a major challenge: as societies age, people will need to work till later in life, hence developing the skills of older workers will be essential. With this background, this spread examines the extent to which the working age population is participating and investing in education and training.
    • How many students study abroad?
      This spread looks at the extent to which students are studying abroad. Pursuing higher-level education in a foreign country allows students to expand their knowledge of other cultures and languages, and to better equip themselves in an increasingly globalised labour market. Some countries, particularly in the European Union, have even established policies and schemes that promote such mobility to foster intercultural contacts and help build social networks.
    • Where do students go to study abroad?
      This indicator describes students’ preferred destinations and subjects they study. Beyond its social and educational effects, the phenomenon of studying abroad has a considerable economic impact. Some OECD countries already show signs of specialisation in the sort of education programmes they offer, and the internationalisation of education is likely to have a growing impact on some countries’ balance of payments of services as a result of revenue from tuition fees and domestic consumption by international students.
    • How many international students stay on in the host country?
      This spread examines students who decide to remain in the host country after completion of their studies. International students decide to stay in their country of study for various reasons, including: increased work opportunities compared to their country of origin, ease of integration into their host country, and future career advantages when returning to their country of origin or when moving to a third country.
    • Add to Marked List
  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts The Economic and Social Benefits of Education

    • Mark Click to Access
    • How much more do tertiary graduates earn?
      This spread examines the relative earnings of workers with different levels of education. Differences in pre-tax earnings between educational groups offer a good indication of supply and demand for education. Combined with data on earnings over time, these differences provide a strong signal of whether education systems are meeting the demands of the labour market.
    • How does education affect employment rates?
      This spread examines the relationship between education and the labour force. OECD countries depend upon a stable supply of well-educated workers to promote economic development. Data on employment and unemployment rates – and how they evolve over time – thus carry important information for policy makers about the supply, and potential supply, of skills available to the labour market and about employers’ demand for these skills.
    • What are the incentives for people to invest in education?
      The efforts people make to continue education after compulsory schooling can be thought of as an investment with the potential to bring rewards in the form of future financial returns. People invest in education in two ways (these are the "costs"): directly, for example through the payment of tuition fees, and indirectly, by sacrificing potential income when not in work and studying. As with any investment, a rate of return can be calculated. In this case, the rate is primarily driven by the reality that people with higher levels of education earn more and are more likely to be in work ("benefits"). Where the rate of return is high, it implies a real financial incentive for people to continue their education.
    • What are the incentives for societies to invest in education?
      The economic benefits of education flow not just to individuals but also to governments through additional tax receipts when people enter the labour market. These public returns, which take into account the fact that providing education is also a cost to governments, offer an additional perspective on the overall returns to education. At the same time, they must be understood in the much wider context of the benefits that economies and societies gain from increasing levels of education.
    • How expensive are graduates to hire?
      The skills of a country’s workforce provide a substantial advantage that can bring economic benefits over the long term. But the extent of such an advantage will be determined by the cost – in other words, how expensive is it to hire skilled workers? To answer that question, this spread looks at the relative cost of hiring workers with different levels of education.
    • What are the social benefits of education?
      Raising people’s well-being and improving social cohesion are major concerns for OECD governments. There is general agreement on the important role that education and skills can play in attaining these outcomes, but far less certainty over how exactly this can be achieved. Against this background, this spread looks at the relationship between educational attainment and social measures of well-being in OECD countries. It focuses on three outcomes: life satisfaction, voting and attitudes towards gender inequality.
    • Add to Marked List
  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Paying for Education

    • Mark Click to Access
    • How much is spent per student?
      This spread shows the levels of combined public and private spending on education. In debates about learning, demand for high-quality education, which may mean spending more per student, is often tempered by the desire to keep taxes low. While it is difficult to determine the level of spending needed to prepare a student for work and life, international comparisons can provide reference points for comparisons of education resources.
    • Has spending per student increased?
      This spread looks at whether spending on education has risen or fallen in recent years. Policy makers are under constant pressure to improve the quality of educational services while expanding access to educational opportunities, in particular at the tertiary level. Over time, spending on educational institutions tends to rise, in large part because teachers’ salaries rise in line with general earnings. However, if the cost of schooling each student is not accompanied by improvements in educational outcomes, it raises the spectre of falling productivity levels.
    • What share of national wealth is spent on education?
      This spread examines the proportion of a nation’s wealth that is invested in education. In other words, it shows to what extent a country – including its government, private enterprise, individual students and their families – prioritises education in relation to overall spending.
    • What share of public spending goes to education?
      Public spending on education, as a percentage of total public spending, indicates the importance placed on education relative to that of other areas of public spending, such as health care, social security and national security. Since the second half of the 1990s, most OECD countries have sought to consolidate public budgets, and education has had to compete with several other sectors for public financial support. This spread evaluates the change in spending on education both in absolute terms and relative to changes in the size of public budgets.
    • What is the role of private spending?
      This spread shows how the financing of educational institutions is shared between public and private entities, particularly at the tertiary level. Public funding provides a very large part of investment in education, but the role of private sources has become increasingly important. Some stakeholders are concerned that this balance should not become so tilted that it discourages potential students from attending tertiary education. Thus, it is important to examine changes in public/private funding shares to determine if they are influencing patterns and levels of student participation.
    • How much do tertiary students pay?
      This spread examines the relationships between annual tuition fees, direct and indirect public spending on education, and public subsidies for student living costs. Governments can address issues of access to and equality of education opportunities by subsidising tuition fees and financially aiding students and their families, particularly students from low-income families. But how this aid is given – whether through grants, scholarships or loans – is a subject of debate in many countries.
    • What are education funds spent on?
      This spread details how OECD countries spend their funds for education, including the split between capital expenditure, which is one-off spending on items such as school buildings, and current expenditure, which is recurring spending on items such as teachers’ salaries. How spending is apportioned, both between current and capital outlays and within these categories, can affect the quality of services, the condition of facilities, and the ability of education systems to adjust to changing demographic and enrolment trends.
    • What accounts for variations in spending on salary costs?
      The relationship between resources devoted to education and outcomes achieved has been the focus of much education policy debate in recent years, as governments seek to ensure value for money in public spending while satisfying the educational needs of the society and economy. Indeed, various reforms implemented during the last decade in primary and secondary education have had important impacts in this area (see Box B7.2 in Education at a Glance 2010). Consequently, there is considerable interest in international comparisons of how various school systems allocate resources. This spread examines these questions from the perspective of salary cost per student – a calculation based on four factors: hours students spend in the classroom, teachers’ teaching hours, estimated class size and teachers’ salaries. Salary cost per student is calculated for each country and then compared with the OECD average.
    • Add to Marked List
  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts The school Environment

    • Mark Click to Access
    • How long do students spend in the classroom?
      This spread examines the amount of time students spend in formal education between the ages of 7 and 14. The choices that countries make about how much time should be devoted to education and which subjects should be compulsory reflect national education priorities. Since a large part of public investment in education goes to instruction time in formal classroom settings, the length of time students spend in school is an important factor in determining the amount of funding that should be devoted to education.
    • How many students are in each classroom?
      This spread examines the number of students per class at the primary and lower secondary levels, and the ratio of students to teachers at all levels. Class size is a hotly debated topic in many OECD countries. While smaller classes are often perceived as enabling a higher quality of education, evidence on the impact of class size on student performance is mixed.
    • How much are teachers paid?
      This spread shows the starting, mid-career and maximum statutory salaries of teachers in public primary and secondary education. Since teachers’ salaries are the largest single cost in education, teacher compensation is a critical consideration for policy makers seeking to maintain both the quality of teaching and a balanced education budget.
    • How much time do teachers spend teaching?
      This spread examines the time teachers spend teaching and doing non-teaching work, such as preparing lessons and assessing students. Although working time and teaching time only partly determine teachers’ actual workload, they do provide valuable insights into differences in what is demanded of teachers in different countries and so may be related to the attractiveness of teaching as a profession. The amount of time that teachers spend teaching is also one of the factors that affect the financial resources countries need to allocate to education.
    • How are schools held accountable?
      Accountability functions when those who are delegated authority have to account for what they are doing with this authority or responsibility. In education, elected or appointed government officials are legally responsible for ensuring that a nation’s children and youth receive a quality education. Accountability thus often takes the form of collecting and sharing data, providing feedback, and making decisions based on the evidence received. School administrators demonstrate accountability to more senior education and political authorities, who in turn delegate responsibility to them to provide instruction.
    • Who are the teachers?
      This spread presents a profile of the teaching workforce. Getting a better understanding of the teaching workforce means countries can anticipate teacher shortages and work to improve the teaching profession’s attractiveness as a career choice.
    • Add to Marked List
  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Special Section: Introducing PISA

    • Mark Click to Access
    • What is PISA?
      PISA, the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, evaluates the quality, equity and efficiency of school systems throughout the world. The programme represents a commitment made by governments to regularly monitor the outcomes of education systems within an internationally agreed framework.
    • How well do OECD students perform in reading?
      This spread examines the reading literacy of 15-year-old students and draws on data from the 2009 PISA tests, in which reading was the major focus. A key priority for all countries is to ensure that as many students as possible attain at least Level 2, which corresponds to the essential skills needed to participate effectively and productively in society. Students who fail to reach this level struggle to perform many everyday tasks, and are unlikely to become lifelong learners or do well in the labour market. For countries to gain a competitive advantage in the knowledge economy, efforts should be focused on educating their students to handle complex reading tasks at Levels 5 and 6.
    • How well do OECD students perform in other subjects?
      This spread examines the proficiency of 15-year-old students in mathematics and science, drawing on data from the PISA tests. A key priority for all countries is to ensure that as many students as possible attain at least Level 2 in these subjects, which corresponds to the essential skills needed to reason mathematically and scientifically. Students who fail to reach this level will find it difficult to participate fully in society at a time when science and technology play a large role. By contrast, students capable of the advanced thinking required at Levels 5 and 6 could become part of a corps of future innovators who will boost their countries’ technological and innovative capacities in science- and math-related industries.
    • How does social background affect performance?
      All countries face the challenge of providing their students with equitable learning opportunities, as performance differences related to student background are evident in every country. But PISA results show that some countries have been more successful than others in minimizing the impact of socio-economic background on students’ performance in reading. Despite the strong association between socio-economic background and reading performance, many students from disadvantaged backgrounds confound predictions and perform well. Thus educators must not assume that someone from a disadvantaged background is incapable of high achievement.
    • How does an immigrant background affect performance?
      This spread examines the performance differences related to immigrant status. In general, students with an immigrant background are socio-economically disadvantaged, and this accounts for part of the performance disadvantage among these students. They face considerable challenges in reading and other aspects of education. In general, they continue to show lower levels of performance even after their socio-economic background is taken into account. However, the differences in performance vary greatly, and in some countries, students from an immigrant background perform just as well as their non-immigrant peers.
    • How does the enjoyment of reading affect performance?
      Students who enjoy reading, and therefore make it a regular part of their lives, are able to build their reading skills through practice. PISA reveals strong associations between reading enjoyment and performance. This does not mean that enjoyment of reading has a direct impact on reading scores, but rather that it is an important precondition for becoming an effective reader. Therefore, to bolster reading performance, schools need to both instruct students in reading techniques as well as foster an interest in reading.
    • Add to Marked List
  • Mark Click to Access
  • Statistical Note
    Although a lack of data still limits the scope of the indicators in many countries, the coverage extends, in principle, to the entire national education system (within the national territory) regardless of the ownership or sponsorship of the institutions concerned and regardless of education delivery mechanisms. With one exception described below, all types of students and all age groups are meant to be included: children (including students with special needs), adults, nationals, foreigners, as well as students in open-distance learning, in special education programmes or in educational programmes organised by ministries other than the Ministry of Education, provided the main aim of the programme is the educational development of the individual. However, vocational and technical training in the workplace, with the exception of combined school- and work-based programmes that are explicitly deemed to be parts of the education system, is not included in the basic education expenditure and enrolment data.
  • Add to Marked List
Visit the OECD web site