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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 11 September 2012

Ageing teachers a challenge for EU education sector

The European Commission today welcomed the launch of Education at a Glance 2012, an annual report providing data from 34 countries including 21 EU Member States (list below) on performance in education. The report, compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), identifies several areas in European education that are likely to create challenges in the near future. An ageing teaching force is one of them: more than 40% of secondary school teachers in five EU countries (Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, the Netherlands, Sweden) are aged 50 or older – in Germany and Italy the share is even higher at more than 50%. Gender inequality is also a problem: the report shows that nearly a third more women than men are enrolling in higher education in the EU.

"This report is an invaluable tool for national and European policy makers. Member States recognise that investing in education is a requisite for Europe's future and long-term prosperity. The data clearly shows that the cost of education is far-outweighed by the returns. But we must not be complacent: the report also shows that reforms are needed to modernise education and make it more attractive for both students and teachers", said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.

Education at a Glance also reveals that:

  • - Education spending in the 21 EU Member States covered is on average USD 9 122 annually per student from primary through to tertiary education. This is slightly below the OECD average of USD 9 252.

  • - 84% of young people in OECD countries are expected to complete upper secondary education; in the EU countries, some 86% will. In 1995-2010, the greatest increase in upper secondary graduation rates was in Portugal (annual growth rate of 4.7%).

  • - The financial return on tertiary education continues to grow. A European graduate can expect a net gain of USD 176 000 (OECD average: USD 162 000) over his working life and public long-term benefits from higher education through increased tax payments and other savings are almost three times the size of the public costs.

    - Europe continues to be the preferred destination for students studying outside their country, with EU countries hosting 41% of all international – EU and non-EU – students. International students make up 10% or more of enrolments in tertiary education in Austria, Luxembourg and the UK. They account for more than 20% of enrolments in advanced research in Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, Sweden and

  • the UK. Across the EU, 76% of foreign students come from another EU country.


Education at a Glance is produced annually by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and draws on data compiled by Eurostat and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The report provides information on the state of play in education, including the financial and human resources invested in education, student-teacher ratios, teaching hours, graduate numbers and results, access, participation and progression in education as well as data on the learning environment and organisation of schools.

New indicators focus on the effect of the global economic crisis on education expenditure and the impact of education on macroeconomic outcomes such as GDP. The report also covers topics such as early childhood education systems, intergenerational mobility in higher education, factors that influence education spending, career expectations among 15-year-olds, the makeup of the teaching force and the impact of examinations on access to secondary and higher education.

The report features data on education from the 34 OECD member countries. These include 21 EU Member States (Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom), 4 other European countries (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey), and 9 non-European countries (Australia, Canada, Chile, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, United States). Furthermore, data is presented for Brazil, the Russian Federation, and – in some cases – Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

The 6 EU Member States which are not OECD member countries and therefore not covered in the report are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Romania.

In line with the growing importance of education and skills issues in the Europe 2020 strategy for growth and jobs, the European Commission and the OECD also announced today their agreement to work more closely in the future. This will strengthen the impact and value of their work in the field of education and training for their member countries.

Country analysis, skills strategies as well as cooperation on surveys such as PISA and the future survey on adult skills (PIAAC) will be a priority in the context of this new framework for collaboration.

For more information

On-the-record technical briefing is available at web streamed

The full report is available on website

Education at a Glance 2012: OECD Indicators

European Commission: The EU's targets in education and training

Annex 1: Entry rates into tertiary education and age distribution of new entrants (2010)

Annex 2: Age distribution of teachers in secondary education (2010)

Contacts :

Dennis Abbott (+32 2 295 92 58); Twitter: @DennisAbbott

Dina Avraam (+32 2 295 96 67)

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