Education at a Glance 2015
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Education at a Glance 2015

OECD Indicators

Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators is the authoritative source for accurate information on the state of education around the world. It provides data on the output of educational institutions; the impact of learning across countries; the financial and human resources invested in education; access, participation and progression in education; and the learning environment and organisation of schools.

The 2015 edition introduces more detailed analysis of participation in early childhood and tertiary levels of education. The report also examines first generation tertiary-educated adults’ educational and social mobility, labour market outcomes for recent graduates, and participation in employer-sponsored formal and/or non-formal education. Readiness to use information and communication technology for problem solving in teaching and learning is also examined. The publication provides indicators on the impact of skills on employment and earnings, gender differences in education and employment, and teacher and school leader appraisal systems. For the first time, this edition includes highlights of each indicator inside the book. The report covers all 34 OECD countries and a number of partner countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, and for the first time, Costa Rica and Lithuania).

The Excel™ spreadsheets used to create the tables and charts in Education at a Glance are available via the StatLinks provided throughout the publication.

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Indicator C2 How do Early Childhood Education Systems Differ Around the World? You do not have access to this content

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Indicator C2 shows enrolment rates in early childhood education and primary education. It also examines expenditure on early childhood education and characteristics such as pupil-teacher ratios and the percentage of students enrolled in public institutions.

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Chapter Highlights

  • Fifteen-year-old students who had attended at least one year of pre-primary education perform better on the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test than those who did not, even after accounting for their socio-economic backgrounds.

  • Early childhood education is particularly beneficial for students with an immigrant background. Among 15-year-old immigrant students who arrived in their OECD host country before the age of 6, the gap in performance between those who had attended pre-primary education and those who had not is equivalent to around two years of schooling.

  • In a majority of OECD countries, education now begins for most children well before they are 5 years old. Some 74% of 3-year-olds are enrolled in early childhood education across OECD countries; among OECD countries that are part of the European Union, 80% of 3-year-olds are enrolled.

Chart C2.1. Enrolment rates at age 3 and 4 in early childhood education (2013)

1. Year of reference 2014.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the enrolment rates of 3 year-olds in pre-primary programmes.

Source: OECD. Table C2.1. See Annex 3 for notes (

ContextExpand / Collapse

As family structures change, so do the relative ages of parents. More women and men are waiting until later in life to begin their families. They do so for a number of reasons, including planning for greater financial security and emotional maturity, taking more time to find a stable relationship, and committing to their careers before turning their attention to having children. As younger and older parents are also more likely to be in the workforce today, there is a growing need for early childhood education. In addition, there is increasing awareness of the key role that early childhood education plays in the cognitive and emotional development of the young. As a result, ensuring the quality of early childhood education and care (ECEC) has become a policy priority in many countries.

Enrolling children in early childhood education can also mitigate social inequalities and promote better student outcomes overall. Many of the inequalities found in education systems are already evident when children enter formal schooling and persist as they progress through the school system. Because inequalities tend to grow when school is not compulsory, earlier entrance into the school system may reduce these inequalities. In addition, pre-primary education helps to prepare children to enter and succeed in formal schooling.

There are many different ECEC systems and structures within OECD countries. Consequently, there is also a range of different approaches to identifying the boundary between early childhood education and childcare (Box C2.1 and see the Definitions section). These differences should be taken into account when drawing conclusions from international comparisons.

Other findingsExpand / Collapse

  • Almost nine out of ten 4-year-olds (88%) are enrolled in early childhood or primary education across OECD countries.

  • Some 84% of funding of pre-primary educational institutions in European OECD countries come from public sources compared to 80% on average across OECD countries.

  • Expenditure on pre-primary education accounts for an average of 0.6% of GDP while expenditure on early childhood education development accounts for an average of 0.4% of GDP.

  • In most countries, the proportions of children enrolled in private early childhood education are considerably larger than those enrolled in private primary and secondary educational institutions. Thus, more than 50% of children enrolled in early childhood development programmes attend private institutions, on average. This can result in heavy financial burdens for parents, even when government subsidies are provided.

  • The ratio of children to teaching staff is an indicator of the resources devoted to early childhood education. The child-teacher ratio at the pre-primary level, excluding non-teaching staff (e.g. teachers’ aides), ranges from more than 20 children per teacher in Chile, China, Colombia, France, Indonesia and Mexico, to fewer than 10 in Estonia, Iceland, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

  • Some countries make extensive use of teachers’ aides in pre-primary education. Twelve countries reported smaller ratios of children to contact staff than of children to teaching staff. As a result, the ratios of children to contact staff in pre-primary education are substantially lower than the ratios of children to teaching staff (more than two fewer children) in Austria, Chile, China, France, Norway and the Russian Federation.

TrendsExpand / Collapse

Over the past decade, many countries have expanded early childhood education. This increased focus has resulted in the extension of compulsory education to lower ages in some countries, free early childhood education, universal provision of early childhood education, and the creation of programmes that integrate care with formal pre-primary education.

On average among those OECD countries with 2005 and 2013 data, enrolments in pre-primary education rose from 52% of 3-year-olds in 2005 to 72% in 2013, and from 69% of 4-year-olds in 2005 to 85% in 2013. The enrolment rates of 4-year-olds in pre-primary education increased by 20 percentage points or more in Australia, Chile, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Russian Federation and Turkey between 2005 and 2013.

NoteExpand / Collapse

ISCED level 0 refers to early childhood programmes that have an intentional education component. ISCED level 0 programmes target children below the age of entry into primary education (ISCED level 1). These programmes aim to develop cognitive, physical and socio-emotional skills necessary for participation and well-being in school and society.

Thanks to the new ISCED classification, level 0 covers now early childhood education for all ages, including very young children. Programmes are sub-classified into two categories, depending on the level of complexity of the educational content: early childhood educational development (code 01) and pre-primary education (code 02). Early childhood educational development programmes (code 01) are generally designed for children younger than 3. They are introduced as a new category in ISCED 2011 and were not covered by ISCED-97. Pre-primary education (code 02) corresponds exactly to level 0 in ISCED-97. Early childhood educational development programmes are not provided in Belgium (except in the Flemish Community), the Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic and Switzerland. In these countries, other structures exist, but the programmes providing ECEC are outside the scope of ISCED 2011 or outside the scope of the UOE data collection (see more details in Box C2.1 and in the Definitions section).

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