Brussels, 9 September 2014
Commission says OECD findings confirm importance of investment in education for EU growth and jobs
The European Commission welcomes the launch today of Education at a Glance 2014, the annual report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the state of play and challenges faced by national education systems. It highlights the growing importance of investment in education for future growth and employment in the EU and for more inclusive European societies.
The report covers the 34 OECD member countries, including 21 EU Member States (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom). Latvia, although not an OECD member, is also included in the report as an OECD partner country.
"This report is a major source of knowledge and evidence for policy-makers; it contributes to increasing our understanding of the challenges we face. It also shows that there are still big differences between EU Member States in the level of skills among both recent graduates and older age groups. The report is consistent with the Commission's policy: increasing the quality of education and raising skills levels is a smart investment and a powerful way of combatting inequalities in our societies," said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.
"We need to ensure that young people in particular are equipped with the skills they will need in their working life and that we provide continuing learning opportunities for adults."
In Brussels today, Andreas Schleicher, the OECD Director for Education and Skills, will present Education a Glance 2014 and Xavier Prats Monné, European Commission Director General for Education and Culture, will comment on the relevance and implications of the findings for EU and Member States' policies. The briefing takes place in the Jean Rey meeting room of the Commission's Berlaymont building at 11am.
Main findings about the EU in Education at a Glance 2014:
Educational opportunities continue to expand significantly in Europe. The share of the adult population with tertiary education has steadily increased in most EU countries during the past decade (to 29%), although the EU still lags behind the OECD average (33%). The share of pupils with upper secondary qualifications has remained stable, while the share of those with less than upper secondary education has decreased. The report confirms the Commission's analysis that, if current trends continue, the Europe 2020 targets of at least 40% of young people completing tertiary education and less than 10% leaving school before completing upper secondary education are within reach.
High levels of education and skills pay off for both individuals and society. a higher education graduate with the highest literacy skills – as measured by the OECD Survey of Adult Skills – earns 45% more on average than a similarly educated adult with the lowest literacy level. In general, in all OECD countries, people with higher education levels are more likely to be employed; and the higher the education level, the higher are average earnings. Society at large also gains through reduced public spending on welfare and through taxes: on average the public net return on an individual with tertiary education is two to three times the amount invested.
Similar levels of educational attainment do not always mean similar levels of skills. There are significant differences in the EU between the skills levels of people with similar qualifications: recent upper secondary graduates in countries such as the Netherlands and Finland score similarly or higher in literacy skills than higher education graduates from Ireland, Italy, the UK and Spain.
The right skills matter during the transition from education to work. A recent study published by the European Commission highlighted that professional expertise is paramount but interpersonal skills such as communication and team work are becoming more important and that work experience during studies is a plus for the employability of higher education graduates.
The teacher population is ageing. On average in EU countries 37% of secondary school teachers are aged at least 50. The share is 45% or more in Austria, Estonia, Germany and the Netherlands and 60% in Italy. This underlines the importance of maintaining or increasing the attractiveness of the teaching profession, an issue on which the Commission recently published a detailed study with recommendations on improving initial and continuing teacher training and early career support.
Private investment in tertiary education is growing. The share of private expenditure in tertiary education has risen from 14% in 2000 to 21% in 2012 in EU countries, notably due to increased or newly introduced tuition fees in some countries. The share of private expenditure is still significantly below the 31% OECD average, and there are large differences between EU countries, ranging from 6% in Denmark and Finland to 65% in the UK. A recent study published by the Commission concludes that student support systems (grants and/or loans) are crucial for offsetting the impact of tuition fees on student enrolments.
Education at a Glance draws on data compiled by the OECD, Eurostat and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The 2014 publication also draws from the results of recent OECD surveys: Survey of Adult Skills, PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment measuring the skills of 15 year olds, and TALIS, the Teaching and Learning International Survey on teachers and school leaders.
The Commission welcomes the report in the context of the recent strengthened cooperation agreement between the Education Department of the OECD and the Directorate General for Education and Culture of the Commission in the analysis of education systems.
For more information
Briefing by Andreas Schleicher and Xavier Prats-Monné webstreamed here and their presentations are available here.
Link to the full report Education at a Glance 2014
European Commission: Education and training for growth and jobs
Annex 1. Employment rates, by educational attainment (2012)
Annex 2. Mean monthly earnings, by literacy proficiency level (2012)