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Education at a Glance 2007: higher education pays off

On 18 September, the OECD launched the 2007 edition of its annual publication Education at a Glance.  The 451-page publication assesses the performance of education systems in the OECD’s 30 member states and some partner economies. The analysis is based on an elaborate system of indicators which makes comparisons between countries possible. The report was produced by the OECD’s Directorate for Education, under the coordination of Andreas Schleicher.

The analysis is based on data mainly from 2004 and 2005 and covers school education, tertiary education as well as lifelong learning. The book focuses on four main areas: participation and achievement; spending (public and private); lifelong learning; and conditions for pupils and teachers. A special focus of the report is on the effects of expanding higher education graduation rates on labour markets. OECD concludes that the expansion of higher education has led to economic benefits for tertiary graduates, and that it even enhances the employment prospects of the lesser qualified.

Education at a Glance 2007 also contains a sizeable section on international student mobility.

With regard to higher education, key findings of the publication are:

  • Enrolment in tertiary education remains on the rise, with more than 50% - in some countries even 75% - moving from secondary to higher education;
  • But differences between countries are substantial. While the OECD average for completing higher education is at 36% of an age cohort, the leaders (Australia, Iceland) reach close to 60%, while countries at the bottom (Germany, Austria, Turkey and Slovenia) rank at 20% or below;
  • Despite the continued expansion of higher education participation, the earnings advantage of those with a tertiary degree has not deteriorated. In some countries, it has even increased.

The publication had a lively reception in the media and amongst stakeholders across OECD countries, showing that Education at a Glance has become a fixture in global higher education. In most countries, reactions were factual, listing the particular country’s strong and weak sides. Reactions in Germany, however, which once again scored under average, were highly emotional. A German teachers’ union representative even called on the government to stop payments to the OECD if it did not refrain from “ideological studies” in the future.

For a more detailed presentation of results as well as the full study, visit the OECD website.