Indicator A6. How are social outcomes related to education?

Societies are increasingly concerned by the effects and the extent of bullying (Nansel et al., 2004[7]; Rigby, 2007[8]; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2016[9]). The potential effect of bullying on psychological well-being and school dropout rates is well documented, but less is known about how people become bullies or the bullied. Traditionally bullying occurs at school, implying that bullied students can escape mistreatment when they leave the school premises. But with the development of technology, cyberbullying is now reaching beyond the school gate (Burns and Gottschalk, 2019[3]). Through instant messaging, social media and other forms of digital communication bullies can now reach their victim anytime, anywhere (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2016[9]). Data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) do not yet distinguish cyberbullying from traditional bullying, but research show that girls tend to be more involved in this type of bullying than boys, both as victims and perpetrators (OECD, 2019[10]).

PISA data show that low performers, especially boys, and students whose parents are less educated (often the same students), tend to report greater exposure to bullying (OECD, 2017[4]). Tippett and Wolke (2014[11]) found that low socio-economic status is associated with a greater likelihood of being involved in bullying, either as a bully or a victim. Parents’ educational attainment is one of the most important predictors of school performance and educational attainment (OECD, 2016[12]; Dubow, Boxer and Huesmann, 2009[13]). It is also a good proxy for socio-economic status. It is therefore interesting to study the association between parents’ educational attainment and exposure to bullying to see if the virtuous circle of high educational attainment is also associated with lower exposure to bullying. In other words, do students whose parents are highly educated suffer less from bullying than those coming from a low-educated family?

The data also show that the share of 15-year-old students who reported being exposed to different forms of bullying is highest among those whose parents did not complete upper secondary education. Students with at least one parent who completed at least upper secondary education are less likely to report being victimised. Surprisingly, the difference in exposure to bullying is not statistically significant when comparing students with parents who completed upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education and those with at least one tertiary-educated parent. This means that, on average across OECD countries, there is no extra advantage to a tertiary education over an upper secondary one in this area (Figure A6.1, left panel).

The OECD average hides important variations across countries. Figure A6.2 shows that in about half of countries, there is no statistically significant difference by parents’ educational attainment in the percentage of 15-year-old students who report being bullied at least a few times a month. In Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, the Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia, it is actually students from tertiary-educated families who are more likely to report being bullied. Across OECD and partner countries, the largest differences by parents’ educational attainment are observed in Canada, Hungary, Norway and the Slovak Republic where the share of students from tertiary-educated families reporting experiencing any type of bullying is at least 10 percentage points lower than the share of students whose parents did not complete upper secondary education (Figure A6.2).

A pattern emerges when analysing the different forms that bullying may take. Data from PISA 2018 show that, on average across OECD countries, students were more likely to report experiencing verbal forms of bullying than physical forms. For example, 15% of 15 year-old students whose parents did not complete upper secondary education reported that other students made fun of them at least a few times a month. The share drops to 10% when they were asked about being hit or pushed around. When reports of all forms of bullying are combined, 26% of these students reported experiencing some form of bullying at least a few times a month (Figure A6.1, left panel).

Figure A6.1 (left panel) shows that the widest gap by parents’ educational attainment relates to being the subject of nasty rumours. Data by country show similar pattern in some Asian countries in the likelihood of being exposed to this form of bullying. In China, Japan and Korea, 7% or less of 15-year-old students reported that other students spread nasty rumours about them at least a few times a month, regardless of their parents’ educational attainment. This implies that this form of bullying is not common in these Asian countries. In contrast, in some Baltic and East European countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia and the Slovak Republic, at least 19% of students whose parents did not complete upper secondary education reported suffering from the spread of nasty rumours about them. This implies that in these countries, students from low-educated families are more likely to report that other students are spreading nasty rumours about them (Figure A6.1 and Table A6.1).

Differences in reported exposure to bullying are statistically significant in a larger number of countries when considering students’ own expectations of educational attainment rather than their parents’ attainment. This implies that exposure to bullying is not only higher for students from low-educated families, but it also associated with lower educational aspirations at the age of 15 (Table A6.1 and Table A6.4, available on line).

On average across OECD countries, only 3% of 15-year-old students do not expect to complete upper secondary education, but this group is twice as likely to report that other students spread nasty rumours about them (20%) than those who expect to complete tertiary education (10%). In Greece, Hungary and Norway, they are over three times more likely to suffer from this type of bullying. In contrast, in China, Japan, Korea and the Netherlands, less than 10% of students reported being targeted by the spread nasty rumours, regardless of their educational expectations (Table A6.4, available on line).

In 2018, PISA included five new questions on attitudes towards bullying in its background questionnaire (Figure A6.1, right panel). These five questions allow the survey to capture 15-year-olds’ attitudes towards bullying and weigh their opinions about actions to protect the bullied or discourage bullying. On average across OECD countries, higher parental educational attainment is associated with a higher likelihood of students agreeing or strongly agreeing with statements about bullying prevention. This is true for all five questions on attitudes towards bullying and the differences are statistically significant between each level of parental educational attainment: below upper secondary education, upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education and tertiary education. The question that gives rise to the largest gaps asks students if they agree that it is a wrong thing to join in bullying. On average, 82% of 15-year-old students whose parents had below upper secondary attainment agreed or strongly agreed with this statement. The share reaches 89% among students with at least one tertiary-educated parent. Among other factors, the higher social desirability among students from highly educated families could partly explain why the differences in attitudes towards bullying by parents’ educational attainment are higher than the differences in exposure to bullying. (Figure A6.1, right panel).

At the country level, the attitude of 15-year-old students towards this specific question on bullying shows a similar association with parents’ educational attainment. Figure A6.3 shows that in 3 out of 4 countries, there is a statistically significant difference in the percentage of 15-year-old students who agreed or strongly agreed that it is a wrong thing to join in bullying by parents’ educational attainment (Figure A6.3).

Generally, the countries with smaller gaps on this measure also have a high share of students who agreed or strongly agreed that it is a wrong thing to join in bullying. For example, in Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States, at least 90% of students agreed or strongly agreed that it is a wrong thing to join in bullying, regardless of their parents’ educational attainment. In contrast, in Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation and the Slovak Republic, the share of students who agreed or strongly agreed is 85% or less, and the gap by parents’ educational attainment is over 10 percentage points. Despite what the list of countries may suggest, there is no strong relationship between the gap in attitudes by parents’ educational attainment and PISA performance. For example, the gap is similar in both Indonesia and Sweden but students perform much better in Sweden (OECD, 2019[14]) (Figure A6.3).

On average across OECD countries, 90% of 15-year-old students who expect to attain tertiary education agreed or strongly agreed that it is a wrong thing to join in bullying. This falls to 83% among students who expect to complete upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education, and 73% of those who do not even think they will complete upper secondary education. As with exposure to bullying, differences in attitudes towards preventing bullying are greater when the analysis focuses on students’ educational expectations rather than their parents’ attainment: the difference between those who expect to attain a below upper secondary and a tertiary education is 17 percentage points, 10 percentage points more than the gap relating to parents’ educational attainment (Annex Table A6.2 and Table A6.5, available on line).

In the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Norway and the Slovak Republic, the share of students who agreed or strongly agreed that it is a wrong thing to join in bullying is over 25 percentage points more among those who expect to complete tertiary education than among those who do not expect to complete upper secondary education. The largest gap is observed in the Czech Republic where 91% of students who expect to complete tertiary education agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, but only 57% of students who do not expect to complete upper secondary education. In contrast, the smallest gap was in Belgium where 91-95% of students agreed or strongly agreed, regardless of their educational attainment expectations (Table A6.5, available on line).

Political efficacy refers to people’s feeling that their political views can affect the political process and, therefore, that it is worthwhile for them to perform their civic duties (Acock, Clarke and Stewart, 1985[22]). Political efficacy is related to different elements of citizens’ lives. For example, diverse media, the ability to create petitions, the right to protest and fair elections all contribute to increased political efficacy. In contrast, political efficacy will be low when citizens feel powerless in their own country. Personal characteristics, socio-economic background and people’s experiences with their political institutions therefore also influence political efficacy (Miller and Listhaug, 1990[23]; OECD, 2017[2]).

Political efficacy is closely related to interest in politics. People with a high level of political efficacy are likely to report being interested in politics. Overall interest in politics is an important factor for social cohesion as it influences behaviour such as voting and other civic engagement. Personal characteristics are also related to interest in politics; for example younger adults generally report a lower level of interest. It is however a policy priority that most citizens feel concerned about politics and actively take part in the political life of society (OECD, 2016[24]).

The European Social Survey (ESS) and the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) ask respondents about their general interest in politics and if they think that their government allows people like them to have a say in what the government does. Combining these questions with information about educational attainment provides information on how political efficacy and interest in politics vary according to education levels. As for PISA question on attitude towards bullying, it is possible that social desirability influences the answers to these questions. For countries having participated in ISSP and ESS, only data from one of the two sources is kept. Generally the source with the better data on educational attainment is selected.

On average, across selected OECD countries participating in the ESS, 52% of tertiary-educated adults report that their political system allows people like them to have some or a great deal of say in what the government does. This share falls to 35% among those who completed upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education, and to 26% among those who did not complete upper secondary education. Similar findings are observed in the selected countries that participated in the ISSP, where educational attainment is positively associated with political efficacy (Figure A6.4).

The Netherlands shows the greatest variation by educational attainment among selected OECD countries participating in the ESS: 74% of tertiary-educated adults feel that their political system allows people like them to have some or a great deal of say in what the government does, but only 32% of adults with below upper secondary education. In contrast, Italy has the smallest difference by educational attainment. Italians also report a low level of political efficacy overall: only 22% of tertiary-educated adults think that their political system allows some or a great deal of say in what the government does, while for adults with below upper secondary education the share is 9% (Figure A6.4).

Data from Korea show high levels of political efficacy regardless of educational attainment. Among the selected OECD countries that participated in the ISSP, Korea has the second highest share of tertiary-educated adults who disagreed or strongly disagreed that people like them don't have any say about what the government does (67%). It scores the highest for adults with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education (60%) and for adults with below upper secondary education (58%). In contrast, in India, Latvia, Lithuania and the Slovak Republic, less than 30% of adults disagreed or strongly disagreed with this statement, regardless of their educational attainment (Figure A6.4).

On average across selected OECD countries participating in the ESS, 57% of tertiary-educated adults reported being quite or very interested in politics. The share falls to 40% among those who completed upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education, and to 30% among those who did not complete upper secondary education. Similar findings are observed among selected countries that participated in the ISSP, where educational attainment is also positively associated with interest in politics (Figure A6.5).

Austria shows the greatest variation by educational attainment among selected OECD countries participating in the ESS: 68% of tertiary-educated adults reported being quite or very interested in politics, while the share is only 24% among those with below upper secondary education. In contrast, the Czech Republic and Hungary have the smallest difference by educational attainment. Adults in these countries show little interest in politics, with 30% or less reporting being quite or very interested in politics, regardless of their educational attainment (Figure A6.5).

Data from Norway show that interest in politics is high regardless of educational attainment. Among the selected OECD countries taking part in the ISSP, Norway has the highest share of adults who reported being somewhat to very interested in politics, regardless of educational attainment: 90% among tertiary-educated adults, 85% among those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education and 83% among adults with below upper secondary education. In contrast, in Chile less than 52% of tertiary-educated adults report being somewhat to very interested in politics, and it reaches a low of 19% for those who did not complete upper secondary education (Figure A6.5).

Age groups: Adults refer to 25-64 year-olds.

Bullying (exposure): PISA measures exposure to bullying by asking 15-year-old students: During the past 12 months, how often have you had the following experiences in school? Some experiences can also happen in social media. / Please select one response: Never or almost never, A few times a year, A few times a month, Once a week or more.

  • Other students left me out of things on purpose.

  • Other students made fun of me.

  • I was threatened by other students.

  • Other students took away or destroyed things that belonged to me.

  • I got hit or pushed around by other students.

  • Other students spread nasty rumours about me.

Bullying (attitudes): PISA measures attitudes associated to bullying by asking 15-year-old students: To what extent do you agree with the following statements? Please select one response: Strongly disagree, Disagree, Agree, Strongly agree.

  • It irritates me when nobody defends bullied students.

  • It is a good thing to help students who can’t defend themselves.

  • It is a wrong thing to join in bullying.

  • I feel bad seeing other students bullied.

  • I like it when someone stands up for other students who are being bullied.

Educational attainment refers to the highest level of education reached by a person.

Expected level of education refers to the level of education 15-year-old students selected when they were asked about the level of education they expect to complete.

Interest in politics is measured by the ESS by asking adults: How interested would you say you are in politics, are you: Very interested, Quite interested, Hardly interested, or Not at all interested? For the ISSP, it is measured by asking adults: How interested would you say you personally are in politics? Please select one response: Very interested, Fairly interested, Somewhat interested, Not very interested, Not at all interested, Can't choose.

Levels of education: See the Reader’s Guide at the beginning of this publication for a presentation of all ISCED 2011 levels.

Parents’ educational attainment: Below upper secondary means that both parents have attained ISCED 2011 levels 0 to 2; upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary means that at least one parent (whether mother or father) has attained ISCED-2011 levels 3 or 4; and tertiary means that at least one parent (whether mother or father) has attained ISCED-2011 levels 5 to 8.

Political efficacy is measured by the ESS by asking adults: And how much would you say that the political system in [country] allows people like you to have an influence on politics? Please select one response: Not at all, Very little, Some, A lot, A great deal. For the ISSP, it is measured by asking adults: How much you agree or disagree with the following statement: People like me don't have any say about what the government does. Please select one response: Strongly agree, Agree, Disagree, Neither agree nor disagree, Disagree, Strongly disagree, Can't choose.

For the 2018 European Social Survey (ESS) and the 2016 International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), percentages of adults for each educational attainment level were compared at a country level with their respective percentages in Indicator A1. Following consultations with countries, data on educational attainment were recoded to improve compatibility with the levels in Indicator A1 for the following countries participating in the ISSP:

  • Chile, France, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

See Annex 3 (https://doi.org/10.1787/69096873-en) for more information on the discrepancies in the survey sample distribution.

Information regarding the proportion of the PISA sample covered for each variable is included in Annex 3 (https://doi.org/10.1787/69096873-en). For the tables presented in the Annex, no symbol means at least 75% of the population were covered; one dagger (†) means at least 50% but less than 75%; and one double-dagger (‡) means less than 50% were covered. The PISA threshold for publication is at least 30 students and 5 schools.

Data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 provided evidence on bullying for OECD member and partner countries (OECD, 2019[14]).

Data from the European Social Survey (ESS) (2018) provided evidence on political efficacy and interest in politics for European OECD member countries (ESS, 2019[25]).

Data from the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) (2016) provided evidence on political efficacy and interest in politics for non-European OECD member and partner countries (ISSP Research Group, 2018[26]).

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Table A6.1 Percentage of 15-year-old students who reported being exposed to different forms of bullying at least a few times a month, by parents' educational attainment (2018)

Table A6.2 Percentage of 15-year-old students who agreed or strongly agreed with statements about bullying, by parents' educational attainment (2018)

Table A6.3 Political engagement, by educational attainment (2016 or 2018)

WEB Table A6.4 Percentage of 15-year-old students who reported being exposed to different forms of bullying at least a few times a month, by students' expected level of educational attainment (2018)

WEB Table A6.5 Percentage of 15-year-old students who agreed or strongly agreed with statements about bullying, by students' expected level of educational attainment (2018)

WEB Table A6.6 Distribution of parents' educational attainment and expected level of educational attainment of 15-year-old students (2018)

StatLink: https://doi.org/10.1787/888934162755

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