Table of Contents

  • Governments are increasingly looking to international comparisons of education opportunities and outcomes as they develop policies to enhance individuals’ social and economic prospects, provide incentives for greater efficiency in schooling, and help to mobilise resources to meet rising demands. The OECD Directorate for Education and Skills contributes to these efforts by developing and analysing the quantitative, internationally comparable indicators that it publishes annually in Education at a Glance. Together with OECD country policy reviews, these indicators can be used to assist governments in building more effective and equitable education systems.

  • We are all born equal, but we are not all born with the same opportunities. Some will be born to wealthy families, others will struggle to make ends meet. Some will grow up in an environment of conflict and turmoil, and will face the challenges of displacement and settling in a country that is not their own, others will benefit from a climate of social stability and prosperity their whole lives. Some will cope with a disability, struggling to learn to perform even basic tasks, while others may never realise the fortune of their good health. The conditions and social environments we are allotted at birth may seem as random as a lottery draw, yet they will define our starting position on the path of life by affecting not only the opportunities available to us, but also the social and emotional capital needed to ease our way.

  • Education at a Glance 2018: OECD Indicators offers a rich, comparable and up-to-date array of indicators that reflect a consensus among professionals on how to measure the current state of education internationally. The indicators provide information on the human and financial resources invested in education, how education and learning systems operate and evolve, and the returns to investments in education. They are organised thematically, each accompanied by information on the policy context and interpretation of the data.

  • 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 who owns or sponsors the institutions concerned and regardless of how education is delivered. With one exception (described below), all types of students and all age groups are included: children (including students with special needs), adults, nationals, foreigners and students in open-distance learning, in special education programmes or in education programmes organised by ministries other than the ministry of education, provided that the main aim of the programme is to broaden or deepen an individual’s knowledge. Vocational and technical training in the workplace, with the exception of combined school- and work-based programmes that are explicitly deemed to be part of the education system, is not included in the basic education expenditure and enrolment data.

  • Despite significant expansion in educational attainment over the past decade, those people with low-educated parents, a proxy for low socio-economic status, are less likely to participate in early childhood education programmes, complete upper secondary school and advance to higher levels of education than those with at least one tertiary-educated parent. While two-thirds of 25-64 year-olds whose parents have not completed upper secondary are expected to attain a higher level of education than their parents, most of them attain upper secondary vocational education. The story is similar at the tertiary level: across OECD countries with available data, 18-24 year-olds whose parents have not attained tertiary education represent only 47% of new entrants into bachelor’s, long first-degree or equivalent programmes, although they represent more than 65% of the population of that age group. These inequalities are then reflected in the labour market: those who have attained only upper secondary education are less likely to be employed and earn 65% as much as their tertiary-educated peers.

  • The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations in 2015, otherwise known as the Global Goals or the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, are a universal call for action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The fourth SDG (SDG 4) is to: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. SDG 4 is to be achieved through the accomplishment of ten targets, which represent the most comprehensive and ambitious agenda for global education ever attempted. Among these, Target 4.5 is of special interest for this year’s edition of Education at a Glance as it focuses on equity.