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 D6 Who are Our School Leaders and What do they do? You do not have access to this content

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Indicator D6 presents the profile of school leaders, the gender and age distribution, their employment status, and the professional development they participate in. It also examines their work practices, their collaboration with teachers and how they share or not the leadership responsibility, and the professional development .

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Chapter Highlights

  • The average age of a lower secondary principal in the countries participating in the 2013 OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) is 52 years old. Given that principals are often recruited from the ranks of teachers, it is not surprising that the proportion of principals under 40 years old is small in most countries.

  • The gender distribution of principals differs from the gender distribution of teachers. Although the majority of teachers in all but one country are women, the proportion of female principals is generally lower.

Figure D6.1. Gender and age distribution of principals in lower secondary education (TALIS 2013)
Percentage of female principals and age of principals

* Note by Turkey: The information in this document with reference to Cyprus relates to the southern part of the Island. There is no single authority representing both Turkish and Greek Cypriot people on the Island. Turkey recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Until a lasting and equitable solution is found within the context of the United Nations, Turkey shall preserve its position concerning the Cyprus issue.

Note by all the European Union Member States of the OECD and the European Union: The Republic of Cyprus is recognised by all members of the United Nations with the exception of Turkey. The information in this document relates to the area under the effective control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.

Countries and economies are ranked in ascending order of the percentage of principals who are over 50 years old.

Source: OECD. Table D6.1. See Annex 3 for notes (

ContextExpand / Collapse

School principals are often the connection between teachers, students and their parents or guardians, the education system and the wider community. Although principals have always played this role, the profession has become increasingly challenging over time. Some principals say they confront often incompatible demands, referring to the challenge of reconciling the demands of teachers, students and parents or guardians with the expectations of the system in which they work and the communities where their school is located. In contexts where most decision-making authority has been devolved to the school level, principals can be especially challenged by the number and variety of demands they face: increasing social diversity, inclusion of students with special needs, emphasis on retaining students until graduation, and ensuring that students have the skills and knowledge necessary to participate in an increasingly competitive economy.

These demands require principals to manage human and material resources, communicate and interact with individuals in a variety of positions, make evidence-informed decisions and also provide the instructional leadership teachers need to help students succeed. Thus, school leadership is increasingly a priority for many countries concerned about boosting student achievement results and improving underperforming or failing schools. Many see principals as major contributors to student achievement, through their impact on schools’ organisation and climate, and especially on teachers and teaching (OECD, 2014a).

Other findingsExpand / Collapse

  • On average across TALIS countries, school principals have 21 years of teaching experience and 9 years of experience in their current role. Around two-thirds of them are employed full time as principals, without teaching responsibilities.

  • On average, only 40% of school leaders say they observe instruction in the classroom often or very often. However, this proportion varies significantly across countries, ranging from more than 80% in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), Bulgaria, Malaysia, Romania and Shanghai (China), to 15% or less in Estonia, Finland, France and Portugal.

  • Principals who take actions to support co-operation among teachers to develop new teaching practices, and who stimulate teachers’ responsibility for their teaching skills and students’ learning outcomes, more often work in schools where teachers are inclined to exchange practices.

  • The TALIS data reveal a wide variation among countries in the extent to which principals share responsibility for various tasks. For example, the percentage of principals in Croatia, Denmark and the Netherlands reporting shared responsibility for the appointment of teachers is 75% or more. For Bulgaria, France, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico and the Russian Federation, it is 20% or less (the overall average is 41%).

  • TALIS data show that principals who participate in professional development activities are more often engaged in distributed leadership, although the kind of professional development activities that are related to distributed leadership differs widely across countries.

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