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The state of education around the world – Findings from Education at a Glance 2021

Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills at the OECD
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The OECD’s Education at a Glance 2021 is the authoritative source for information on the state of education around the world 

Today (16 Sept), the @OECD launch Education at a Glance 2021, a flagship report that looks at how the UK compares on a range of educational and employment measures.

Education at a Glance is the leading international compendium of comparable national statistics measuring the state of education worldwide.

In addition to an accompanying report on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on education, this year’s edition includes a focus on equity in education, offering an assessment of where OECD and partner countries stand in providing equal access to opportunity for access, participation, and progression in quality education at all levels.

This includes the outcomes of education across a number of equity dimensions:

  • gender,
  • immigrant background or country of origin, and
  • subnational regions.

Other indicators include:

  • public and private spending on education;
  • the earnings’ advantage of education;
  • entry to and graduation from tertiary education;
  • statutory and actual salaries of school heads; and
  • class sizes, teacher salaries and instruction times.

The report analyses the education systems of the 38 OECD member countries, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

Report recommends that governments boost investment in education to tackle inequality of opportunity – Sector Reaction

Paul Whiteman 100x100Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“We agree that if the government is serious about solving inequality in this country it needs to boost education funding. Despite all the rhetoric about additional investment in schools, the fact is that per-pupil spending in real terms is lower now than it was a decade ago. The Government’s failure to invest has forced schools to cut back on staff, support for pupils, and activities that enrich the school day, all of which are needed to help solve inequality.

“That said, although it is right that schools are at the centre of efforts to narrow the gap, it would be wrong to expect schools to solve the problem on their own. The issues that underpin inequality reach far beyond the school gates and exist throughout the communities that schools serve. Cuts to local authority budgets have greatly reduced the sources of support for families on low incomes. Some of the areas where it is hardest to be socially mobile have suffered from decades of under-investment and shrinking opportunities for well-paid and highly skilled work. If we’re serious about improving equality in the UK we’ve got to look at all these factors. Schools can’t do it alone.”

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18 Months into the Pandemic 

The fourth edition of The State of Global Education: 18 Months into the Pandemic will also be released at the same time.

In 2020, 1.5 billion students in 188 countries/economies were locked out of their schools. With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic still raging, the disruption to education has extended into 2021 and many education systems are still struggling to ensure learning continuity.

The OECD – in collaboration with UNESCO, UNICEF and The World Bank – has been monitoring the situation across countries and collecting data on how each system is responding to the crisis, from school closures and remote learning, to teacher vaccination and gradual returns to in-class instruction.

This report tracks developments throughout the pandemic, and analyses a range of topics, from lost learning opportunities and contingency strategies through the organisation of learning and the working conditions of teachers to issues around governance and finance. 

It provides data on the structure, finances and performance of education systems across OECD countries and partner economies.

The impact of the pandemic on VET systems

Marieke Vandeweyer, Policy Analyst at OECDThe recent OECD report “The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for vocational education and training” (June 2021) describes the impact of the pandemic on VET systems in OECD countries and the measures taken to ensure continuity of education and training in the VET sector.

Marieke Vandeweyer’s article for FE News “The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for vocational education and training: Lessons learnt from OECD countries” summarises some of the key findings from that report.

An overview of the UK findings

  •    Similarly to other OECD countries, there is a gap in the learning outcomes of children according to socio-economic status in the United Kingdom. In 2018, the share of socio-economically disadvantaged children achieving at least PISA level 2 in reading was 19% lower than that of the most advantaged children in the United Kingdom. This was a smaller gap than the OECD average (29%).
  •    In the United Kingdom, young women are more likely to achieve tertiary education than men but they are less likely to start a tertiary degree in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In 2020, 59% of 25-34 year-old women had a tertiary qualification compared to 52% of men. This gender difference of 7 percentage points is small compared to the OECD average of 13 percentage points. However, only 21% of new entrants in information and communication technologies degrees at tertiary level were female in 2019, slightly higher than the OECD average of 20%.
  •    The percentage of 25-64 year-old adults with tertiary education varies considerably by region in the United Kingdom, ranging from 38% in North East England to 68% in Greater London. This was one of the highest regional variations across OECD countries with available data.
  •    The United Kingdom spent the fifth highest proportion of its GDP on primary to tertiary educational institutions out of countries in the OECD. In 2018, spending on primary to tertiary educational institutions in the United Kingdom was 6.1% of GDP, which was 1.3 percentage points higher than the OECD average.
  •    There are subnational disparities in teachers’ salaries in the United Kingdom. Statutory salaries at different stages of teachers’ careers varied more within England, where maximum salaries were 152% higher than 

At 10am at One Great George Street, Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills will present an overview of the UK findings from today’s report, and discuss how education systems are faring during the pandemic. This will be followed by an opportunity to ask questions and a discussion and Q&A with an expert panel, including Natalie Perera, Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute, and Lucy Heller, Chief Executive of Ark Schools.

The event will bring together leading figures from across the education sector to reflect on the challenges for education over the past year, and opportunities for children and young people in the future.

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