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Education Indicators in Focus

Education Indicators in Focus is a recurring series of briefs that highlight specific indicators in OECD’s Education at a Glance that are of particular interest to policy makers and practitioners. They provide a detailed look into current issues in pre-primary, primary and secondary education, higher education, and adult outcomes from a global perspective, and contain an engaging mix of text, tables and charts that describe the international context of the most pressing questions in education policy and practice.

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How do differences in social and cultural background influence access to higher education and the completion of studies?

Parents’ level of education still greatly influences that of their children: individuals are 4.5 times more likely to attend higher education if one of their parents has a higher education degree than if both their parents have below upper secondary education. Inequalities in higher education reflect to a great extent what happened earlier in an educational career. Upper secondary students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to perform well in PISA assessments, less likely to complete upper secondary education and less likely even to aspire to attend higher education. Nevertheless, higher education institutions still have an important role to play in reducing inequalities. Policies must aim to make higher education more accessible for students from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as to support these students and improve their success at this level.

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