Education at a Glance 2017
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Education at a Glance 2017

OECD Indicators

Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators is the authoritative source for information on the state of education around the world. With more than 125 charts and 145 tables included in the publication and much more data available on the educational database, Education at a Glance 2017 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 2017 edition presents a new focus on fields of study, investigating both trends in enrolment at upper secondary and tertiary level, student mobility, and labour market outcomes of the qualifications obtained in these fields. The publication also introduces for the first time a full chapter dedicated to the Sustainable Development Goals, providing an assessment of where OECD and partner countries stand on their way to meeting the SDG targets. Finally, two new indicators are developed and analysed in the context of participation and progress in education: an indicator on the completion rate of upper secondary students and an indicator on admission processes to higher 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).

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 A9 How many students complete upper secondary education? You do not have access to this content

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Indicator A9 shows current upper secondary completion rates in education systems, i.e. the percentage of students who follow and graduate from upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary programmes, by gender and general/vocational orientation. It also examines to what extent the impact of parents’ educational background and immigrant status impacts their completion rate at this level.


Chapter Highlights

  • On average across countries that submitted true-cohort data (data on individual students), 68% of students who enter upper secondary education graduate within the theoretical duration of the programme in which they began. Two years after the end of the theoretical duration, average completion increases to 75%. For countries with cross-cohort data (aggregate data on student cohorts; see Analysis section), the average completion rate is 84%.

  • In all countries, girls have higher completion rates than boys in total upper secondary education, though the gender gap tends to decrease when looking at completion rates two years beyond the theoretical end of the programme. This means more boys graduate late than girls.

  • On average, 4% of students are still in education two years after the theoretical end of the programme in which they enrolled, while 21% have not graduated and are no longer enrolled.

Figure A9.1. Completion rate of upper secondary education by gender (2015)
Completion rate of full-time students in initial education programmes of at least two years of duration

1. Year of reference 2013.

2. Upper secondary general programmes only.

3. Year of reference 2014.

4. Year of reference is 2016 and data cover successful completion and achievement of two-year GCSE programmes.

Countries are ranked in descending order of girls’ completion rate (for true cohort, by the theoretical duration).

Source: OECD (2017), Table A9.1. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (

ContextExpand / Collapse

Upper secondary completion rates measure how many of the students who enter an upper secondary programme graduate from it within a given time frame. One of the challenges facing education systems in many countries is students’ disengagement and consequent dropout from the education system, meaning that they leave school without an upper secondary qualification. These young people tend to face severe difficulties entering – and remaining in – the labour market. Leaving school early is a problem therefore for individuals and society alike.

Evidence shows that the risk of not completing upper secondary programmes can be linked to students’ socio-economic, demographic and educational backgrounds. As policy makers examine ways to reduce the number of early school-leavers, it is important to identify and address these potential at-risk groups (Box A9.1).

This indicator is restricted to initial education only, meaning it only captures students who are entering upper secondary education for the first time. For these students, it measures the successful completion of upper secondary programmes and the proportion of students still in education after two specific time frames: 1) the theoretical duration of the programme in which students enrolled; and 2) two years after the end of the theoretical duration. The difference between these two time frames sheds light on the extent to which students tend to graduate on time (or within the amount of time expected given the theoretical duration of the programme). This indicator also allows for a comparison of completion rates by gender and programme orientation.

Like the graduation rate (see Indicator A2), the completion rate does not indicate the quality of upper secondary education; it does however indicate to a certain extent the capacity of this education level to engage students to the end of the programme.

Other findingsExpand / Collapse

  • For nearly all countries, completion rates are higher for general programmes than for vocational programmes. In Estonia, Luxembourg and Norway, the completion rate for general programmes is over 20 percentage points higher than for vocational programmes.

  • In some countries, it is common for students to transfer between programme orientations before graduating from upper secondary education. In Chile, the Flemish Community of Belgium, Israel and Norway, 10% or more of students graduate from a different programme orientation to the one in which they originally enrolled.

  • Completion rates within the theoretical duration for vocational programmes vary widely across countries, from 33% in Luxembourg to 92% in Israel. For countries with cross-cohort data, the figures range from 58% in Greece to 92% in Japan and Korea.

NoteExpand / Collapse

The completion rate in this indicator describes the percentage of students who enter an upper secondary programme for the first time and graduate from it a given number of years after they entered. The restriction to first-time entrants into upper secondary education means that adult-education programmes and students entering upper secondary education again after their initial schooling are excluded. For example, students who enter a vocational upper secondary programme after having completed a general upper secondary programme are not captured by this indicator. In addition, this indicator is restricted to programmes of at least two years’ duration, even though some countries have one-year programmes offering an upper secondary qualification and the credentials required to obtain a job.

Completion and graduation rates are two different measures; this measure of upper secondary completion should not be confused with the indicator on upper secondary graduation rates (see Indicator A2). Graduation rates represent the estimated percentage of people from a certain age cohort that are expected to graduate at some point during their lifetime. It measures the number of graduates from upper secondary education relative to the country’s population. For each country, for a given year, the number of students who graduate is broken down into age groups (for example, the number of 16-year-old graduates divided by the total number of 16-year-olds in the country). The overall graduation rate is the sum of these age-specific graduation rates.

A third indicator in Education at a Glance uses the notion of educational attainment (see Indicator A1). Attainment measures the percentage of a population that has reached a certain level of education, in this case those who graduated from upper secondary education. It represents the relationship between all graduates (of the given year and previous years) and the total population.

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