The OECD report ‘Education at a Glance 2013’ shows how education developed during the economic crisis. The data in the report underline one important conclusion, “a good education is the best insurance against lack of work experience.”
Preventing a ‘lost generation’
Unemployment among people that did not finish secondary education is almost three times higher (13%) than among those with a degree in higher education (5%). This gap has been widening since the start of the economic crisis in 2008. The unemployment rate among the poorly educated rose with four percent point, while unemployment among people with a higher education degree has risen with only 1.5 percent point.
The OECD figures show that 15% of people between 15 and 29 are currently neither employed nor enrolled in education. This number is significantly higher for Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain (<20%). However the situation was already concerning, the situation for the three Southern-European countries has worsened in 2012. In order to prevent a ‘lost generation’ the EU developed programs to stimulate high quality apprenticeships and traineeships.
“Leaving school with good qualifications is more important than ever”, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría explained. Not only higher education is a good security against unemployment, also vocational training increases the chance of a job. The report shows that the countries with the highest share of vocational training, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria and Switzerland saw unemployment increase less than countries that mainly have general upper secondary education.
Working on BMW’s more attractive than classes
Andreas Schleicher, Special Advisor on Education Policy for the OECD, puts these numbers in perspective. “However vocational training might reduce the chance of unemployment, it still pays off to pursue a degree in tertiary education. Especially in countries with world-class vocational education like Germany it might be appealing to enroll in vocational training when you’re sixteen.”
“For many students, working on BMW’s is more attractive than spending two more boring years at school. However, in the long term you have more benefits from higher education. On average, adults that have a degree in higher education earn 50% more than people with a degree in upper secondary education.”
“We shouldn’t push young people to make a choice between the two, but give them the important skills from the two”, the OECD’s education expert explains. The European Commission agrees on this and has created the Erasmus class. Xavier Prats Monné, Deputy Director-General for Education and Culture: “With this program we can increase the cooperation between these two distinct types of education.”
Many teachers on brink of retirement
Whether one chooses for higher or vocational education, he or she will benefit from good primary education. As came forward during the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, the quality of teachers is one of the most important factors that determine the quality of education. “Without good teachers there won’t be good education”, Andreas Schleicher agrees.
Teacher’s salaries are in many EU countries still a bottleneck. On average, teachers in EU-countries earn between 77% and 89% of people in comparable jobs. This gap has been widening in the last few years since their real term salaries have decreased with 4 % between 2009 and 2011. “If this trend continues, it might endanger the recruitment of a new generation of teachers to replace the aging workforce that will retire soon,” Prats Monné says.
As the figure shows, Italy, Austria and Germany might be in serious trouble soon when no new teachers are attracted. More than 60% of the Italian teachers is over 50. In Germany, Estonia and the Netherlands more than half of the teachers will retire within 15 years. Alarming is that these countries did not yet succeed to attract enough young teachers to replace them. Positive exception is the UK. “Programs like ‘Teach First’ have resulted in a young, talented and diverse teachers pool”, Andreas Schleicher explained.
The next Teaching Summit will be hosted by New-Zealand. One of New-Zealand’s characteristics might inspire other countries to attract new teachers. In the OECD on average it takes 24 years for a teacher to reach its top salary, in New-Zealand however, it only takes 8 years. Nevertheless, at the top of the scale, a teacher in New Zealand can expect to earn 50% more than new teachers entering the profession, which is less than the average for OECD countries of 61%.
A diminishing giant
The United States has often been warned that this generation will have less chance than previous generations. The United States rank 5th in tertiary attainment among 25-64 year-olds, but 12th when considering 25-34 year-olds. It is the only country next to Finland and Israel where the attainment levels have not increased. The number of people with a degree in higher education in Korea, in comparison, has risen in the same timespan from 40 to 65 percent, leaving the US far behind.
Also on primary education, American children start to lag behind. For most children in a majority of OECD countries, especially in European countries, education now begins well before they are five years old. In the United States only 50% of children were enrolled in early childhood education at the age of 3, compared to 68% on average among OECD countries. In some countries, such as Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden more than 90% of 3-year-olds are enrolled in early childhood education.
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