Indicator D7. What is the profile of vocational teachers and what is the student-vocational teacher ratio?

A well-prepared teaching and training workforce with the right set of skills is vital for quality VET provision. Ensuring that a sufficient and continuing number of skilled VET teachers are entering and retained in the profession is of central importance in many of the OECD countries reporting concerns about VET teacher shortages in relevant occupations. Germany estimates that the number of VET teachers will only meet 80% of the demand in the coming decade, while in Sweden, it is estimated that the supply of new VET teachers will meet less than half of the demand. In Korea, new VET teachers replaced only 70% of retirees in the past five years. Even countries where VET teacher shortages are not pronounced, such as Finland, Japan, the Netherlands and Norway, anticipate shortages in specific fields and localities (OECD, 2021[1]).

The VET teaching profession may also suffer from teacher shortages due to the limited attractiveness of the profession as a career. Salary levels are one significant explanation for why teaching in VET programmes does not necessarily attract enough entrants. In several countries, the profession does not offer competitive salaries compared to industry or other educational institutions, especially in high-demand sectors such as information and communication technologies (ICT). In addition, many VET teachers feel that their profession is not valued by society. High workloads, poor management of VET institutions and lack of career development opportunities also impact on job satisfaction, which in turn influences VET teacher retention (OECD, 2021[1]).

The VET teaching workforce is ageing. On average across the 25 OECD countries with available data, 43% of teachers in upper secondary VET programmes were 50 years old or older in 2021, compared to 41% in 2013 (Education at a Glance Database). This is higher than the share for general education teachers (39% in 2021), where there has been a similar 1 percentage point increase between 2013 and 2021.

The age distribution of the vocational workforce varies considerably across countries, but overall the share of young staff members (less than 30 years) in VET programmes is low in all OECD countries. Korea has the largest share of young teachers, at 14% of the teaching staff. Similarly, in more than half of OECD countries, those aged 50 or over make up the largest share of VET teaching staff. On average, 43% of the VET teaching workforce at upper secondary level in OECD countries are aged 50 or over. However, there is a large degree of variation across countries, with the share ranging from 17% in Costa Rica and Türkiye to 59% in Italy. At post-secondary non-tertiary level, the share of teaching staff aged 50 or over is even higher, averaging 45% across OECD countries (Table D7.2).

These large proportions of older teaching staff reflect the wider challenge of an ageing teacher workforce in many countries, but could also be compounded by the usual practice of VET teachers gaining industry experience before joining the profession. Results from the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) show that VET teachers tend to have more non-teaching work experience than general education teachers at upper secondary level (OECD, 2021[3]). VET staff often start their professional trajectory in industry or outside the education sector, with teaching usually coming as a second vocation. TALIS found that teaching was the first choice of career for a smaller share of teachers in VET schools (62%) than it was for teachers in other schools (70%) (OECD, 2021[3]).

The diverse experience and up-to-date knowledge that some teachers in VET programmes may bring from their non-education roles in industry are great assets for learners in vocational programmes. However, attention should also be paid to supporting these staff in their pedagogical role to ensure that they are able to properly transfer essential skills to students (OECD, 2021[1]).

Teachers in upper secondary vocational programmes are more likely to be men than those in general ones. Overall, 41% of upper secondary teachers are men on average across OECD countries in 2021, but men account for 45% of teachers in vocational upper secondary programmes, compared to 39% of those in general ones. The share of male teachers is higher in vocational programmes than in general ones in almost all OECD countries except the Netherlands, where the share of male teachers in general programmes is slightly more than the share in vocational ones, by 2 percentage point. In Norway and Slovenia, the share of male teachers is similar for both general and vocational programmes (Table D7.3).

However, there are significant variations across countries in the gender profile of teaching staff at upper secondary level. Overall, at upper secondary level, male teachers form the majority only in Colombia (55%), Japan (68%) and Switzerland (54%). In contrast, in Bulgaria, Canada, Latvia and Lithuania, men represent only one-quarter or less of all upper secondary teaching staff. In vocational upper secondary programmes, there are more female than male teachers in all countries except Chile (49%), Denmark (46%) Luxembourg (49%), Mexico (48%) and Switzerland (45%). In Austria, Brazil, Korea and Türkiye, the share of teachers is similar for both women and men (Table D7.3).

Despite their significant representation among the VET teaching staff at upper secondary level, female teachers are still earning less than their male colleagues. In most countries for which data are available, the actual salaries of 25-64 year-old female upper secondary VET teachers are much lower than those of male teachers (Table D3.9). Female VET teachers are also more likely to work part time than their male peers, but there is no information on whether this is a desired arrangement or a consequence of precarious contracts (OECD, 2021[1]).

Between 2013 and 2021, the gender imbalance has been exacerbated, with the share of male teachers falling by 2 percentage points, from 47% to 45% in upper secondary vocational programmes. The share of male VET teachers fell in almost all countries with available data, with Hungary seeing the largest drop, from 51% in 2013 to 43% in 2021. In contrast, Estonia saw a 4-percentage point increase in the share of male teachers, the largest increase over that period (Figure D7.3).

The student-teacher ratio in upper secondary vocational programmes varies widely, from 8 students per teacher in Belgium, France and Greece to 56 students in Colombia (Figure D7.1). Although the average ratio in vocational programmes across OECD countries is relatively similar to general programmes, with 15 students per teacher compared to 14 in general programmes, the variation across countries is much larger. While in many countries, the ratio of students to teachers in vocational programmes is identical or very similar to general programmes, in Colombia, Latvia and the United Kingdom, there are at least seven more students per teacher in vocational programmes than in general ones. In other countries, such as Brazil, France and Mexico, the difference is reversed: there are over six more students per teacher in general programmes (Table D7.1).

A combination of factors may influence the differences in student-teacher ratios between vocational and general upper secondary programmes. The amount of work-based learning is one determining aspect. Countries with more work-based learning tend to have a larger number of students per teacher, as students spend less time in school-based settings (OECD, 2017[4]). In such programmes practical training is delivered mostly within companies and schools focus on general subjects and theoretical instruction, which may happen in larger classes. In contrast, VET systems with a substantial school-based learning component tend to have similar or smaller student-teacher ratios than in general education (OECD, 2020[5]). This reflects the need to deliver practical training within school settings, which requires smaller groups of students than the teaching of general subjects or vocational theory. In particular, countries where more than half of upper secondary vocational students are enrolled in combined school- and work-based programmes tend to have an equal or larger number of students per teacher in vocational than in general programmes. For instance, in Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia and Switzerland, where about 9 out of 10 upper secondary vocational students are enrolled in combined school- and work-based programmes (Table B1.3), ratios of students to teaching staff are consistently higher in vocational than general programmes.

However, other factors, such as field of study, also influence the student-teacher ratio in vocational programmes. Some fields require greater instructor attention and supervision, particularly those where students have access to more sophisticated equipment (Hoeckel, 2008[6]). This may be particularly the case in technical fields such as engineering, manufacturing and construction, or some specialties in health and welfare. For example, Latvia and the United Kingdom have some of the lowest shares of upper secondary vocational students graduating from the combined fields of engineering, manufacturing and construction and health and welfare across OECD countries (Education at a Glance Database). Both countries have among the highest differences in student-teacher ratios between vocational and general programmes across OECD countries. In contrast, the fields of study of upper secondary vocational graduates in Austria, Germany and Switzerland are more diversified, which may explain the similar student-teacher ratios between vocational and general programmes in these countries. These differences have important implications for the cost of vocational instruction, as advanced vocational training in specialised fields of study requires both complex machinery and a greater level of human resources (Klein, 2001[7]). In most countries with available data, the cost per student in upper secondary vocational programmes is higher than in general ones (Indicator C1).

  • Vocational education teachers (International Standard Classification of Occupations) teach or instruct vocational or occupational subjects in initial, adult and further education institutions and to senior students in secondary schools and colleges. They prepare students for employment in specific occupations or occupational areas for which university or higher education is not normally required, whether they work in a general secondary school or in a vocational or technical school or college. This includes vocational teachers not only in VET programmes but also in general programmes but excludes general subject teachers in VET programmes.

The ratio of students to teaching staff compares the number of students (full-time equivalents) to the number of teachers (full-time equivalents) at a given level of education and in similar types of institutions. This ratio does not consider the amount of instruction time students have relative to the length of teachers’ working days, nor how much time teachers spend teaching.

For the ratio of students to teaching staff to be meaningful, consistent coverage of personnel and enrolment data are needed. For instance, if teaching staff in religious institutions are not reported in the personnel data, then students in those institutions must also be excluded.

For more information, please see the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018 (OECD, 2018[8]) and (OECD, 2023[2]), Education at a Glance 2023 Sources, Methodologies and Technical Notes, for country-specific notes.

Data refer to the academic year 2020/21 and are based on the UNESCO-UIS/OECD/Eurostat data collection on education statistics administered by the OECD in 2022 (for details, see Education at a Glance 2023 Sources, Methodologies and Technical Notes).


[6] Hoeckel, K. (2008), Costs and Benefits in Vocational Education and Training, OECD,

[7] Klein, S. (2001), Financing Vocational Education: A State Policymaker’s Guide, RTI International,

[2] OECD (2023), Education at a Glance 2023 Sources, Methodologies and Technical Notes, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[1] OECD (2021), Teachers and Leaders in Vocational Education and Training, OECD Reviews of Vocational Education and Training, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[3] OECD (2021), Teachers Getting the Best out of Their Students: From Primary to Upper Secondary Education, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[5] OECD (2020), Education at a Glance 2020: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[8] OECD (2018), OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018: Concepts, Standards, Definitions and Classifications, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[4] OECD (2017), Education at a Glance 2017: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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