Scanning the headlines on OECD’s Education at a Glance 2019

With a focus on higher education this year, Education at a Glance 2019 highlights that, on average, 44% of 25-34 year-olds from OECD countries held a tertiary degree, an increase from 35% in 2008. However, among 18-24 year-olds, an average of 14.3% are not employed or in school or vocational training, with that percentage rising to 25% in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Italy, South Africa and Turkey.

Tertiary degree holders also earn 57% more than those who have completed an upper secondary education.  At the same time, women earn less than men at all levels of educational attainment, and the gap is wider among those with a tertiary level education.  In 2016, the percentage of total government expenditures spent on education – from primary to tertiary – averaged 11% in OECD countries, from a low of 6.3% in Italy to 17% in Chile.

Headlines in a number of countries also emphasized the results related to higher education, but noted as well the significant gender gaps in pay between men and women, and concerns about education expenditures, class size, and teacher pay.



Australia should try to keep more international students who are trained in our universities, The Conversation

Australia’s education system takes almost one in ten of all international students from countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)… They represent about 48% of those enrolled in masters and 32% in doctoral programs.



(Translation) In Brazil, investment per student and teacher salary remain low, Gazeta Do Povo

…although Brazil invests in education more than other members of the organization, student spending is below the average of these other nations



Higher education needs to step up efforts to prepare students for future: OECD

In China, the recent share of tertiary attainment is 18 percent, much lower than the OECD average. Among Chinese people aged between 25 and 34, 67 percent are expected to enter tertiary education for the very first time, slightly more than the OECD average of 65 percent.



(Translation) New OECD figures: The class quotient is rising fastest in Denmark,

The Danish class quotient in both the youngest and the oldest classes has now passed the EU average. In fact, Denmark is the country in the OECD, where the class quotient in the oldest classes has increased most since 2005.



(Translation) Comparison East beats West, Spiegel Online

The people in East Germany are more highly qualified than the citizens in the West….Over-55-year-olds are doing particularly well.



High gender pay gap among degree holders – OECD, RTÉ

The figures show that women with third level [tertiary] qualifications earn 28% less than their male peers in Ireland. The study shows the number of women who attend third level is higher in Ireland than men –  51% of women compared to 43% of men.



OECD: Israel big spender on education, students receive less, The Jerusalem Post

Israeli expenditure on education as a share of GDP may now be among the highest in the developed world, but Israel still spends significantly less per student than most other countries, according to a report published on Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.



In Latvia, women with higher education earn 20% less than men, LA.LV

In Latvia, women with higher education earn on average 20% less than men with the same level of education, but women with secondary education earn 28% less than men with upper secondary education.



(Translation) Norwegian students and universities cost more,

A new report shows that spending per student at Norwegian universities and colleges has increased more from 2010 to 2016 than in most other countries. Expenditure growth was 20 per cent per student. This is 12 per cent more than the average in other Western countries (OECD countries).



(Translation) Report: Polish teacher earns little, but also spends little time at the blackboard,

According to the Education at Glance 2019 report, a Polish teacher earns $ 26,428 annually after 15 years of work. Teachers in Luxembourg earn the most in Europe – $ 108,624, Germany – $ 74,486 and the Netherlands – $ 63,413. The Finnish educator earns $ 42,206 and the teacher in France 37,700.




Slovenia still below OECD average in spending on education, Total Slovenia News

Slovenia earmarked in 2016 the same share of its gross domestic product (GDP) for education as in the year before, 4.3%, which is below the OECD average.



Bad education? Why more class time has not improved academic results in Spain, El País

Spanish high school students perform worse on PISA tests than Finnish pupils, even though they spend 246 more hours in the classroom



Switzerland- Vocational training or degree? Employment rates are similar, MENAFN

Overall Swiss adults had a higher employment rate than the OECD average: among those with obligatory school education it was 69% compared with the 59% OECD average. For those with post-obligatory school vocational training the employment rate was 82% (OECD average 76%) compared with 89% (OECD: 85%) for those with tertiary education.


Britain has biggest primary school classes in the developed world, report finds, The Telegraph

State primary schools in the UK now have an average of 28 pupils, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) latest Education at a Glance study. This is the first year that Britain has been ranked as having the highest number of pupils per class – joint with Chile – out of all the OECD countries.


Headlines Around the World: Back to School 2019 Edition

Schools around the world start at different times of year (this Wikipedia page offers a calendar with a partial list). Like many other places, schools here in New York City start in September. This week, we are continuing a yearly IEN tradition of gathering headlines from different places around the world that discuss the start of a new school year. IEN’s Aidi Ban has also contributed a number of fascinating stories about students heading back to school in China.



Mexico City Begins School Year With New Gender Neutral Uniform Policy (WBUR)
School started last week in Mexico City and with the new school year comes a new policy. Students can wear whatever they want, regardless of their gender. But that doesn’t sit well with everyone.

Photos from Omar Martinez of the 1st Day of School In Tijuana

United States

Have You Heard Podcast — The Back to School Episode
School can be a tough, even traumatic place for students and teachers alike. Four teachers tell Have You Heard what they’re doing to change that.

Larry Cuban on Seating Charts and the Grammar of Schooling

Migrant Children Separated From Parents Experienced Severe Trauma, Government Watchdog Finds. Here’s What That Means for America’s Schools (the74) A reminder of the trauma many migrant youth face as they head back to school

First Day Jitters Of A Different Kind: A Guatemalan Boy Begins School In Cincinnati (Cincinnati Public Radio)
A similar story, but about an individual student’s journey and experiences on the first day of school



New semester starts in China (from Xinhua Net)
Photos and stories of students heading back to school

Randomized School Admissions Rattle Shanghai’s Rat Race (from Sixth Tone)
Admissions concerns as students head back to school (or start school)

School’s Out for Prolonged Summer of Hong Kong Protests (Wall Street Journal)
As students head back to school, protests continue in Hong Kong

Students Boycott Classes on the First Day of the School Year in Hong Kong’s Latest Democracy Protest (Time)
A similar article, specifically discussing boycotting schools


New School Year Begins Today In Greece (Greek City Times)
A welcome back and overview of the school calendar in Greece


How much these Canadians spent on back-to-school shopping (Global News Canada)
An analysis of Canadian spending on back-to-school items

Ontario educational workers hold strike vote as students head back to school (Global News Canada)

Back to school: Toronto volunteers pack supplies for kids in shelters  (News Toronto)

Czech Republic

“According to the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, fewer Czech pupils say ‘Yes’ when asked “Do you like to go to school?””

International Headlines

A Request to All Kids Going Back to School (Thrive Global)

The back-to-school question some believe we should ditch (BBC)
Exploring why teachers should stop asking “what did you do on summer break?”


LEAD THE CHANGE SERIES Q & A with Sarah L. Woulfin

Dr. Sarah L. Woulfin is an associate professor in the University of Connecticut’s Department of Educational Leadership who studies the implementation of instructional policy. Using lenses from organizational sociology, she investigates how policies and organizational conditions influence the work of teachers, coaches, principals, and district administrators. She has conducted several studies of instructional coaching across multiple states and educational systems. She has adopted a research-practice partnership approach to engage in mutualistic qualitative research with district leaders. Dr. Woulfin’s work has been published in AERJ, AJE, EAQ, EEPA, Urban Education, and other outlets. In her doctoral work at the University of California-Berkeley, she focused on policy implementation and institutional theory. As a former urban public school teacher and reading coach, she was dedicated to strengthening students’ literacy skills to promote educational equity. As a scholar, her commitment to raising the quality of instruction motivates her research on how policy influences—and is influenced by—administrators, coaches, and teachers.

In this interview, part of the Lead the Change series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, Dr. Woulfin discusses her work exploring instruction and its role in educational change. As she puts it:

When researchers provide feedback and encourage reflection, this coaching increases the capacity of change agents…

It is vital that Educational Change scholars track bottom-up change as districts design structures, draft plans, and carry out activities…

With the goal of assisting transformation in educational systems, I currently use a research-practice partnership (RPP) approach to conduct rigorous and relevant research on change efforts. As described in this piece, I support change agents by adopting a coaching stance which entails observing, listening, and asking questions. Notably, when researchers provide feedback and encourage reflection, this coaching increases the capacity of change agents, enabling them to support other educators in tackling reforms.

This Lead the Change interview appears as part of a series that features experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, and offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change. Recently, Lead the Change has also interviewed Kristin Kew and Osnat Fellus.

International Ed News on Break

IEN will be off this week and next, but we’ll return at the beginning of September with posts about heading back to school around the world.

AI and education in China

In recent weeks, we have come across a number of pieces on AI and education in China. For instance, a recent article by Karen Hao talks about how “experts agree AI will be important in 21st-century education—but how? While academics have puzzled over best practices, China hasn’t waited around. In the last few years, the country’s investment in AI-enabled teaching and learning has exploded.”

IEN contributor Aidi Bian offers further insights:

Education and AI has become increasingly popular in China during the past years. AI technologies are explored and applied in both individual learning settings and classrooms (see links below). While most of the time, high technology serves to assist students in preparing for standardized tests and learning, AI applications like the adaptive tutoring product Squirrel AI do contribute to learning efficiency and equality.


A few related reports:

AI-enabled tuition ushers in the intelligent age:

China wants to bring artificial intelligence to its classrooms to boost its education system:

Liulishuo’s AI App Is Teaching English to 70 Million People:

TAL Education Group (in Chinese):

Scaling education programs in the Philippines: A policymaker’s perspective

This week, we’re sharing highlights from a recent piece from Brookings about education programs in the Philippines. You can find the piece here. As the author, Rosalina describes:

In 2016, 586,284 children of primary school age in the Philippines were out of school, underscoring demand for large-scale programs to address unmet learning needs. As a chief education program specialist in the Department of Education (DepEd) in the Philippines, I have firsthand experience planning, implementing, and monitoring and evaluating a variety of education programs. One of our main challenges is ensuring that effective initiatives, such as with our teacher professional development program, take root and grow into sustainable, system-wide approaches for improving teacher quality and encouraging responsive instructional practices to improve learning outcomes.


How was DepEd able to improve literacy and numeracy skills in recent years? We began by articulating a clear vision that focused on teachers, as they play a fundamental role in developing these skills among their students. I worked closely with my team of education experts to retool teachers’ mastery of content knowledge and pedagogical skills so they could effectively lead in the classroom. In 2015, we introduced the Early Language, Literacy, and Numeracy Program (ELLN) to improve reading and numeracy skills of K-3 learners. ELLN strengthened teacher capacity to teach and assess reading and numeracy skills, improved school administration and management, established competency standards, and introduced a school-based professional development system for teachers, the “School Learning Action Cell” (SLAC). ELLN trained teachers through a ten-day, face-to-face training module. While this approach had some impact, it was not to the extent we hoped—we wanted to reach the entire country. We understood that scaling an in-person training would be costly and time-consuming to reach primary grade teachers in all schools throughout the country. Because of this, my DepEd colleagues and I began thinking about ways we could harness technology to deliver improved teacher professional development at a national scale.


In the Philippines, the following approaches helped us to create, adapt, and scale programs with the aim of sustainable impact:

  • Identify learning champions at all levels: There is a need to identify and empower a pool of champions at multiple levels of the system—in the regions, divisions, communities, and schools. By doing so, these champions become agents of change. In the case of ELLN, regional directors play a critical role in implementing the program by liaising with school division superintendents and public school leaders.
  • Adapt programs to local context: Those implementing programs at larger scale or in new locations should be equipped to make the programs work in their areas by contextualizing approaches to suit local needs. This includes identifying and articulating the “non-negotiables” of the original design to ensure adherence to a set standard, but those implementing in new contexts should feel agency to adjust to fit local needs. Setting specific standards on program implementation through policy guidelines or memoranda can help maintain the appropriate level of consistency in implementation between different areas. On ELLN-D, we encourage slight variations in the structure and format of SLACs in ways that make sense for a given context.
  • Recognize that every idea is valuable: It is important to allow champions to implement the program with standardized guidance but recognize that adjustments and changes are not only inevitable but also beneficial. Have faith that even when the originating organization or institution is no longer around, others implementing can successfully deliver the programs and have sustained positive impact on the people they serve.

IOE London Blog: Counting the cost of a fragmented school system

**This post initially appeared on the IOE London Blog, a blog written by academics at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE), University College London.**

In an effort to turn schools into academies too little attention has been given to constructing a middle tier oversight system that is fair and efficient for all.

This is an unescapable conclusion of our new study, Understanding the Middle Tier: Comparative Costs of Academy and LA-maintained Systems, which has uncovered the cost of England’s systems for overseeing academies and local authority (LA) schools. We found a complex and confusing picture that reinforces the Public Accounts Committee judgement that the Department for Education’s ‘arrangements for oversight of schools are fragmented and incoherent, leading toinefficiency for government and confusion for schools.’

The ‘middle tiers’ are the systems of support and accountability connecting publicly-funded schools and academies with the DfE – functions that were formerly carried out for all state schools by local authorities (LAs).

We found inequity: the middle tier functions for academies cost 44% more than for LA-maintained schools in 2016/17 (latest available data). The overall cost of the middle tier for the academy system was £687.4m or £167.05 per pupil, compared to £524.4m or £115.71 per pupil for the LA school system.

The difference can largely be explained by extra grants provided to multi-academy trusts (MATs) for functions previously undertaken by LAs. The top-slicing of academy budgets by MATs further increases the available funding for senior leadership posts to undertake middle tier functions. These leadership posts have not only increased in number but salaries have been unregulated. This has led to headline-hitting figures, such as those for Harris Federation’s CEO, whose salary without on-costs was £440,000 in 2016/17. Perhaps this is a reason why large MATs (11+ academies) did not demonstrate the economies of scale that might be expected. Academies belonging to these large trusts had the highest cost per pupil.

We identified middle tier functions under four main headings of finance, accountability, access and people. In simple terms, these were carried out by LAs for all schools before the policy of large-scale academisation was introduced in 2010. In 2016/17 70% of schools were LA-maintained and 30% academies but the proportions have changed. 60% of schools are now overseen by the 152 LAs and 40% are academies overseen by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, the Regional Schools Commissioners and by 1,183 multi-academy trusts and 1,608 single academy trusts.

Assessing the comparative costs of the middle tiers has been extremely complex and difficult. The Department for Education (DfE) does not publish information about the costs of middle tier functions performed by its agencies and refused our Freedom of Information requests. It is clear that greater efficiency, fairness and transparency are needed in the funding and oversight of England’s school system.

The research report by Sara Bubb Associates was commissioned and part-funded by the Local Government Association, but its content expresses the independent evidence-based views of its authors: Dr Sara Bubb, Jonathan Crossley-Holland, Julie Cordiner, Dr Susan Cousin and Professor Peter Earley.