Indicator B1. Who participates in education?

In OECD countries, compulsory education typically begins with primary education, starting at the age of 6. However, in about one-third of OECD and partner countries, compulsory education begins earlier while in Estonia, Finland, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation andSouth Africa compulsory education does not begin until the age of 7. Compulsory education ends with the completion or partial completion of upper secondary education at the age of 16 on average across OECD countries, ranging from 14 in Korea and Slovenia to 18 in Belgium, Chile, Germany and Portugal. In the Netherlands, there is partial compulsory education (i.e. students must attend some form of education for at least two days a week) from the age of 16 until they are 18 or they complete a diploma. However, high enrolment rates extend beyond the end of compulsory education in a number of countries. On average across OECD countries, full enrolment (the age range when at least 90% of the population are enrolled in education) lasts 14 years from the age of 4 to the age of 17. The period of full enrolment lasts for between 11 and 16 years in most countries and reaches 17 years in Norway. It is shorter in Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, the Slovak Republic and Turkey, and in partner countries such as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia (Table B1.1).

In almost all OECD countries, the enrolment rate among 4-5 year-olds in education exceeded 90% in 2018. Enrolment at an early age is relatively common in OECD countries, with about one-third achieving full enrolment for 3-year-olds. Iceland, Korea and Norway also have full enrolment for 2-year-olds (see Indicator B2). In other OECD countries, full enrolment is achieved for children at the age of 5, but this rises to the age of 6 in Finland and Turkey and 7 or later in Colombia, the Slovak Republic and, among partner countries, in Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation (Box B1.1).

In all OECD countries, compulsory education comprises primary and lower secondary programmes. In most countries, compulsory education also covers, at least partially, upper secondary education, depending on the theoretical age range associated with the different levels of education in each country. There is nearly universal coverage of basic education, as enrolment rates among 6-14 year-olds attained or exceeded 95% in all OECD and partner countries except Colombia (88%), Indonesia (93%) and the Slovak Republic (95%) (Table B1.1).

In recent years, countries have increased the diversity of their upper secondary programmes. This diversification is both a response to the growing demand for upper secondary education and a result of changes in curricula and labour-market needs. Curricula have gradually evolved from separating general and vocational programmes to offering more comprehensive programmes that include both types of learning, leading to more flexible pathways into further education or the labour market.

Overall, 84% of the population are enrolled in education between the age of 15 and 19 on average across OECD countries. The share is highest in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden, where the overall enrolment rate reaches at least 90%, and is between 80% and 90% in half of the countries with data available. Enrolment levels for 15-19 year-olds were 1 percentage point higher in 2018 than in 2010, with the largest increases observed in Chile, Mexico, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom (5 percentage points or more). Enrolment levels did not improve in all OECD countries: for example, they fell by more than 3 percentage points among 15-19 year-olds in Estonia, Hungary and Lithuania (Table B1.1).

The share of students enrolled in each education level and at each age illustrates the different educational systems and pathways in countries. As they get older, students move on to higher educational levels or types of programmes, and the enrolment rate in upper secondary education (both general and vocational) decreases. The main component of enrolment among 15-19 year-olds is related to upper secondary education; none of the OECD and partner countries have greater enrolment in lower secondary education among this age group (OECD average: 14%) than in upper secondary programmes (OECD average: 58%). However, lower secondary education represents a significant share of enrolment for 15-19 year-olds in Denmark, Germany and Lithuania, where enrolment rates at this level reach at least 30% (Figure B1.3). At least 70% of all 15-19 year-olds in the Czech Republic, Italy and Slovenia are enrolled in upper secondary education while the share is as low as 35% in Costa Rica, 27% in Colombia and 26% in the Russian Federation, although this figure excludes some of the Russian students enrolled in upper secondary vocational education (Figure B1.3).

Depending on the structure of the educational system, students across OECD countries may enrol in general or vocational upper secondary programmes. General education programmes are designed to develop learners’ general knowledge, skills and competencies, often to prepare them for other general or vocational education programmes at the same or a higher education level. General education does not prepare people for employment in a particular occupation, trade or class of occupations or trades, while vocational education and training (VET) programmes prepare participants for direct entry into specific occupations without further training (OECD, 2018[3]). On average across OECD countries, the enrolment rates among 15-19 year-olds in upper secondary general education reach 37%, while the rate for upper secondary vocational education and training is 22%. Nearly two-thirds of upper secondary students (63%) across OECD countries are enrolled in general programmes, while the remainder (37%) are enrolled in VET. There are only nine countries where the majority of 15-19 year-old upper secondary students are enrolled in vocational programmes. Among those, 7 out of 10 students are enrolled in VET programmes in the Czech Republic. In the remaining countries general programmes account for the most significant portion of enrolment in upper secondary education, with 8 or more in every 10 students enrolled in general programmes in 11 of the OECD and partner countries with data available (Figure B1.1).

Enrolment rates in upper secondary general programmes for 15-19 year-olds range from 19% in Austria and Colombia to 50% or more in Canada, Chile, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and the United States. This compares to enrolment rates in vocational upper secondary programmes that range from 5% or less in Australia, the United States and OECD partner countries like Argentina, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and South Africa (in Argentina and the United States VET programmes are not offered at upper secondary level) to over 50% in the Czech Republic and Slovenia (Table B1.2). Within the age group of 15-19 year-olds enrolment rates may be higher for some specific ages (or for narrower age groups), especially for countries where vocational programmes have a shorter duration.

Not all OECD and partner countries offer both post-secondary non-tertiary and short-cycle tertiary programmes, but all OECD countries offer programmes in at least one of these two educational levels. Post-secondary non-tertiary programmes provide learning experiences that build on secondary education and prepare for labour-market entry and/or tertiary education. The content is broader than secondary but not as complex as tertiary education. Short-cycle tertiary programmes refer to first tertiary programmes that are typically practically based, occupationally specific and prepare for labour-market entry. These programmes may also provide a pathway to other tertiary programmes (UNESCO-UIS, 2012[4]). Post-secondary non-tertiary and short-cycle tertiary programmes often, but not always, represent shorter vocational or technical alternatives to higher education. Post-secondary non-tertiary enrolment rates among 15-19 year-olds reach up to 5% in Germany, Greece and Hungary and short-cycle tertiary enrolment rates for this age group peak at 10% in Austria and Korea and 25% in the Russian Federation, although this latter figure includes a small share of upper secondary vocational students. However, the average enrolment rate of 15-19 year-olds in these two educational levels combined remains low, at 3% on average across OECD countries (Figure B1.3).

Enrolment in long-cycle tertiary education, which includes bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral or equivalent programmes, is limited among the 15-19 year-old population: only 9% of young people in this age group on average across OECD countries. However, enrolment rates do vary significantly at this level and range from 1% in Denmark, Iceland and Luxembourg to 16% in Ireland and the United Kingdom, 18% in Belgium, and 20% or more in Greece and Korea, where enrolment in tertiary programmes typically starts at an earlier age (see Indicator B4).

The transition from secondary to tertiary education is characterised by a drop in enrolment rates on average. The 20-24 year-old age group does not include any years of compulsory education (in contrast to ages 15 to 19) and is the one that most typically corresponds to the ages of enrolment in tertiary education in OECD countries. The average enrolment rate of 20-24 year-olds across OECD countries is about half that of 15-19 year-olds: only 41% of the population aged 20 to 24 are enrolled in education. Enrolment rates among 20-24 year-olds are highest in Greece and Slovenia, where 55% or more are in education. In contrast, the enrolment rate is as low as 21% in Israel (partly related to the compulsory nature of military service at the age of 18) and 20% in Luxembourg (where studying abroad in neighbouring countries is relatively common, see Indicator B6). Enrolment levels overall have not changed between 2010 and 2018 on average across the OECD (remaining at 41%), but enrolment levels have increased significantly in a number of countries, especially in Ireland and Spain, where the enrolment rate was at least 11 percentage points higher in 2018 than in 2010. At the other end of the spectrum, the largest drop in enrolment in the same period was observed in Iceland, Lithuania and New Zealand where rates fell by 8 percentage points or more (Table B1.1).

In general, across OECD countries 20-24 year-old students are most commonly enrolled in tertiary education, typically in long-cycle programmes, but not entirely. On average across OECD countries, 30% of the population in this age group are enrolled in long-cycle tertiary education and this share ranges from 7% in Luxembourg to 40% or more in Greece, Korea, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Poland. Enrolment levels in post-secondary non-tertiary and short-cycle tertiary programmes are generally lower and reach 5% of 20-24 year-olds on average across the OECD for these two levels combined. However, short-cycle tertiary enrolment rates reach 10% or more in Chile, Korea, Turkey and the United States. Enrolment rates in post-secondary non-tertiary programmes are below 10% in all OECD and partner countries and peak at 9% for Germany (Table B1.2).

Only 4% of 20-24 year-olds are enrolled in upper secondary vocational programmes on average across the OECD, compared to 22% of 15-19 year-olds. Enrolment rates of 20-24 year-olds for these programmes exceed 10% only in Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Slovenia. Upper secondary general programmes play a smaller role in the education of 20-24 year-olds: the OECD average enrolment rate reaches only 2% and the highest values are 8% in Iceland and Sweden and 11% in South Africa. Unlike among 15-19 year-olds, vocational programmes are strongly preferred by 20-24 year-old upper secondary students: on average across the OECD, 62%of students in this age group and at this level are enrolled in vocational programmes, compared to 37% among 15-19 year-old students (a 25 percentage-point increase). The largest jumps in the share of vocational upper secondary students between 15-19 year-olds and 20-24 year-olds are observed in Australia, France, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom; in these countries, VET programmes form an important part of adult education (Figure B1.1).

Enrolment in education is less common among the older population, as students graduate and transition to the labour market: the OECD average enrolment rates in all levels of education reach 16% among 25-29 year-olds, 6% among 30-39 year-olds and 2% among 40-64 year-olds. The highest enrolment rates among 25-29 year-olds are in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Turkey, where more than 25% of the population in this age group are still in education. Enrolment levels are lower among 30-39 year-olds and reach at least 10% only in Australia, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Sweden and Turkey. The highest enrolment rate among 40-64 year-olds is 6% and is observed in Australia and Finland (Table B1.1).

Long-cycle tertiary education has the most significant enrolment rates among those aged over 24, even though enrolment levels are much lower compared to younger age groups. On average across OECD countries, 0.5% of the population aged over 24 are enrolled in upper secondary vocational education, 0.2% in post-secondary non-tertiary education, 0.4% in short-cycle tertiary programmes and 2.3% in bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral or equivalent programmes (Figure B1.4). Enrolment rates in long-cycle tertiary education range from 1% or less in France, Luxembourg, the Slovak Republic and the Russian Federation to 4.5% in Iceland and 4.9% in Turkey. Enrolment of adults aged 25 and older in short-cycle tertiary programmes reaches up to 1.2% in Australia, 1.3% in the United States and 3% in Turkey. Some older students also enrol in post-secondary non-tertiary education, with the highest enrolment rate observed in Australia (1.3%).

The highest upper secondary vocational enrolment rates found among those aged over 24 are 1.9% in Australia and 3.3% in Finland. On average across OECD countries, VET programmes represent the great majority of enrolment among older adults at upper secondary level and accounts for 61% of all upper secondary students over 24 enrolled in general and vocational programmes combined. This share reaches or exceeds 90% in 14 countries and is higher than among 20-24 year-olds in the majority of countries. In Iceland, South Africa and Spain, the share of upper secondary students enrolled in VET programmes is at least 19 percentage points higher among those aged 25 and over than among 20-24 year-olds (Figure B1.1).

The data in this indicator cover formal education programmes that represent at least the equivalent of one semester (or half of a school/academic year) of full-time study and take place entirely in educational institutions or are delivered as combined school- and work-based programmes.

Full enrolment, for the purposes of this indicator, is defined as enrolment rates exceeding 90%.

General education programmes are designed to develop learners’ general knowledge, skills and competencies, often to prepare them for other general or vocational education programmes at the same or a higher education level. General education does not prepare people for employment in a particular occupation, trade or class of occupations or trades.

Vocational education and training (VET) programmes prepare participants for direct entry into specific occupations without further training. Successful completion of such programmes leads to a vocational or technical qualification that is relevant to the labour market.

Private institutions are those controlled and managed by a non-governmental organisation (e.g. a church, a trade union or a business enterprise, foreign or international agency), or their governing board consists mostly of members not selected by a public agency. Private institutions are considered government-dependent if they receive more than 50% of their core funding from government agencies or if their teaching personnel are paid by a government agency. Independent private institutions receive less than 50% of their core funding from government agencies and their teaching personnel are not paid by a government agency.

A full-time student is someone who is enrolled in an education programme whose intended study load amounts to at least 75% of the normal full-time annual study load. A part-time student is one who is enrolled in an education programme whose intended study load is less than 75% of the normal full-time annual study load.

Except where otherwise noted, figures are based on head counts, because of the difficulty for some countries to quantify part-time study. Net enrolment rates are calculated by dividing the number of students of a particular age group enrolled in all levels of education by the size of the population of that age group. While enrolment and population figures refer to the same period in most cases, mismatches may occur due to data availability in some countries resulting in enrolment rates exceeding 100%.

For more information, please see the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018: Concepts, Standards, Definitions and Classifications (OECD, 2018[3]) and Annex 3 for country-specific notes ((https://doi.org/10.1787/69096873-en).

Data refer to the academic year 2016/17 and are based on the UNESCO-UIS/OECD/EUROSTAT data collection on education statistics administered by the OECD in 2018 (for details, see Annex 3 at (https://doi.org/10.1787/69096873-en). Data from Argentina, the People’s Republic of China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa are from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS).

Data on subnational regions for selected indicators are available in the OECD Regional database (OECD, 2020[5]).

References

[5] OECD (2020), “Regional education”, OECD Regional Statistics (database), https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/213e806c-en (accessed on 27 July 2020).

[1] OECD (2019), “What characterises upper secondary vocational education and training?”, Education Indicators in Focus, No. 68, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/a1a7e2f1-en.

[3] OECD (2018), OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018: Concepts, Standards, Definitions and Classifications, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264304444-en.

[2] OECD (2017), Starting Strong 2017: Key OECD Indicators on Early Childhood Education and Care, Starting Strong, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264276116-en.

[4] UNESCO-UIS (2012), International Standard Classification of Education ISCED 2011, http://www.uis.unesco.org.

Table B1.1 Enrolment rates by age group (2005, 2010 and 2018)

Table B1.2 Enrolment rates of 15-19 and 20-24 year-olds in secondary and tertiary education, by level of education (2018)

Table B1.3 Enrolment rates of students aged 25 and older in secondary and tertiary education, by level of education (2018))

StatLink: https://doi.org/10.1787/888934163116

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