Education at a Glance 2016
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Education at a Glance 2016

OECD Indicators

Education at a Glance is the authoritative source for information on the state of education around the world. It provides key information 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 2016 edition introduces a new indicator on the completion rate of tertiary students and another one on school leaders. It provides more trend data and analysis on diverse topics, such as: teachers’ salaries; graduation rates; expenditure on education; enrolment rates; young adults who are neither employed nor in education or training; class size; and teaching hours. The publication examines gender imbalance in education and the profile of students who attend, and graduate from, vocational education.

The report covers all 35 OECD countries and a number of partner countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa).

This edition includes more than 125 figures and 145 tables. The Excel™ spreadsheets used to create them are available via the StatLinks provided throughout the publication. More data is available in the OECD Education Statistics database.

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Indicator A1 To What Level Have Adults Studied? You do not have access to this content

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Indicator A1 examines the level of educational attainment as a percentage of a population that has successfully completed a given level of education. It also shows the relationship between the level of educational attainment and skills, and educational attainment by programme orientation (general or vocational) and by field of education.

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Chapter Highlights

  • Over recent decades, the share of adults who have not completed upper secondary education has decreased in the majority of OECD and partner countries. On average, about one in five 25-34 year-olds are still without upper secondary qualifications. A number of countries, including Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa are still lagging behind. In these countries, more than 50% of young adults are without upper secondary qualifications.

  • Upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education continues to be the highest educational attainment for the largest share of 25-64 year-olds across countries, but it no longer represents the largest share among 25-34 year-olds in about half of OECD countries. The largest share has shifted from upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education to tertiary education.

  • Among adults with upper secondary education or post-secondary non-tertiary education as the highest educational attainment, a larger share completed vocational programmes than general programmes.

Figure A1.1. Percentage of 25-34 year-old adults with below upper secondary education, by gender (2015)

1. Reference year differs from 2015. Refer to the source table for more details.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the percentage of 25-34 year-olds with attainment below upper secondary education.

Source: OECD. Table A1.3, and Educational attainment and labour-force status, Education at a Glance (database), See Annex 3 for notes (

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Giving all people a fair chance to obtain a quality education is a fundamental part of the social contract. It is critically important to address inequalities in education opportunities in order to improve social mobility and socio-economic outcomes, and to promote inclusive growth through a broadened pool of candidates for high-skilled jobs.

Educational attainment, measured as the percentage of a population that has reached a certain level of education and holds a qualification at that level, is frequently used as a proxy measure of human capital and the level of an individual’s skills – in other words, a measure of the skills associated with a given level of education and available in the population and to the labour force. In this sense, qualifications certify and offer information on the type of knowledge and skills that graduates have acquired in formal schooling.

Higher levels of educational attainment are associated with several positive individual, economic and social outcomes (see Indicators A5, A6, A7 and A8). Individuals with high educational attainment generally have better health, are more socially engaged, and have higher employment rates and higher relative earnings. Higher proficiency in literacy and numeracy is also strongly associated with higher levels of formal education (OECD, 2016a).

Individuals thus have incentives to pursue more education, and governments have incentives to provide appropriate infrastructure and organisation to support the expansion of higher educational attainment across the population. Over past decades, almost all OECD countries have seen significant increases in educational attainment, especially among young and particularly among women.

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  • In the majority of OECD and partner countries, the share of people with below upper secondary education is higher among young men than young women. On average across OECD countries, 47% of young men aged 25-34 years old have upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education as their highest attainment, while the share is lower among young women (38%).

  • Over recent decades, the expansion in tertiary education has been considerable, and people with tertiary education represent the largest share of 25-34 year-olds in many OECD countries. On average across OECD countries, the tertiary-educated account for 35% among 25-64 year-olds and 42% among 25-34 year-olds.

  • In most countries, those with bachelor’s or equivalent degree account for the largest share of tertiary-educated adults. Among 25-64 year-olds, women are represented more than men at all levels of tertiary education except for doctoral or equivalent degrees.

  • Across OECD countries and subnational entities that participated in the Survey of Adult Skills, a product of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), a larger share of tertiary-educated women studied in the field of teacher training and education science, and the field of health and welfare, while a larger share of tertiary-educated men studied in the field of engineering, manufacturing and construction, and the field of science, mathematics and computing.

NoteExpand / Collapse

Several indicators in this publication show the level of education among individuals. Indicator A1 shows the level of attainment (i.e. the percentage of a population that has successfully completed a given level of education). Graduation rates (see Indicators A2 and A3) measure the estimated percentage of younger adults who are expected to graduate from a particular level of education during their lifetimes. Completion rates at tertiary level (see Indicator A9) estimate the proportion of students who enter a programme and complete it successfully within a certain period of time (see Note in Indicator A9).

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