Responsiveness of education systems to special needs

Responsive education systems ensure that all students, regardless of their socio-economic background, have equal opportunities to succeed in their studies and thrive in the labour market. In general, those with low education levels (i.e. at most lower secondary education) are over-represented in youth unemployment. A good education is the best safeguard against becoming a young person not in employment, education or training (NEET) (Carcillo, et al. 2015).

In 2020, on average, across the OECD, 12.6% of 15-29 year-olds were NET, compared with 15.6% ten years earlier. Switzerland (4.9%), the Netherlands (5.8%) and Luxembourg (6.2%) had the lowest NET rates, while Turkey (30.8%), Colombia (23.7%), Italy (23.0%) and Mexico (20.7%) had the highest. Israel halved its NET rate in ten years, from 28.7% in 2009 to 12.9% in 2020, in line with its steep overall declines in unemployment rates during the same period. Latvia and Turkey also achieved large reductions, by 9.9 p.p. and 8.7 p.p. respectively (Figure 14.15).

At the school level, having sufficient resources and support is key to ensuring that all students have the same opportunities. In 2018, the OECD countries where instruction is less hindered by shortages of staff (according to school principals) were Poland (-1 standard deviation from the OECD mean), Denmark (-0.7 sd) and the Slovak Republic (-0.5 sd), while Japan (0.9 sd), Portugal (0.8 sd) and Italy (0.5 sd) are most affected by such shortages. Outside the OECD, instruction in Romania (-0.4 sd) is less hindered by staff shortages than the OECD average. When considering educational material, Turkey, Canada (-0.6 sd each) and Australia (-0.5 sd) are the countries where instruction is the least hindered by shortages, while Colombia (0.8 sd), Japan and Greece (0.7 sd each) are the most affected (Figure 14.16).

Homework is widely used to encourage student motivation and self-regulation, but it may widen the performance gap between students with different socio-economic backgrounds (OECD, 2020). On average across OECD countries, 76% of students attended schools that provided rooms for students to do homework in 2018, and 62% were in schools where staff helped students with their homework. In Luxembourg and Sweden the share was 98% of students, while it was only 41% in Greece and 42% in the Slovak Republic. Similarly, 93% of students in Sweden and the United Kingdom attended schools whose staff provided help with homework, and only 29% in Austria and 35% in Korea (Figure 14.17).

Further reading

Carcillo, S. et al. (2015), “NEET youth in the aftermath of the crisis: Challenges and policies”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 164, OECD Publishing.

OECD (2020), PISA 2018 Results (Volume V): Effective Policies, Successful Schools, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Figure notes

14.15. Data for 2020 refer to the 4th quarter. Data for Colombia for 2009 are not available. Data for Japan and Korea are not available. Data for Australia, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Russia are for 2019 instead of 2020. Data for Chile are for 2017 instead of 2020. Data for the United States, Brazil and South Africa are for 2018 instead of 2020.

14.16. Countries and economies are ranked in descending order of the index of shortage of educational material.

14.17. Data on help from staff to do homework for Japan are not available.

14.16 and 14.17. Data for China cover Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang only.

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