Chapter C – Indicator C3: How much public and private investment in educational institutions is there?

Education at a Glance 2021


Chapter C. Financial resources invested in education


Indicator C3. How much public and private investment in educational institutions is there?

The balance between public and private education funding differs significantly between OECD countries. At the pre-primary and tertiary levels of education, total or nearly total public funding is less prevalent. At these levels, private funding is mostly provided by households, raising questions about equality in educational access.

Some stakeholders are concerned that the balance between public and private education funding would prevent aspiring students from enrolling in tertiary education. Others consider that governments should greatly increase public assistance for students, such as student loans or grants. Student loans can reduce the load of private spending and reduce the cost to taxpayers of direct government funding by moving the education costs to a period when students often start earning more.


Share of public and private expenditure on educational institutions:

Most of the fundings on primary to tertiary educational institutions in OECD countries comes from public sources, with private funding being an essential part of tertiary education. However, private and international funding differs from one country to another.

Based on analyzing figure C3.1, we can conclude the following:

  • In 2018, the average funding across OECD countries for primary to tertiary educational institutions that came directly from public sources was 82%, and 16% from private sources.
  • In Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, and Sweden, private funds constitute 5% or less of expenditure on educational institutions.
  • In Australia, Chile, the United Kingdom, and the United States, private funds make up around one-third of educational expenditure.
  • International sources contribute 1% of total expenditure, reaching 4% or more in Estonia, Latvia, and Portugal.


Non-tertiary educational institutions:

Figure C3.2 indicates that in all countries, public funding dominates non-tertiary education. In 2018, on average across OECD countries, private funding reached 10% of expenditure at non-tertiary levels of education, while this number exceeds by 20% in Chile, Colombia, and Turkey. In most of the countries, most of the private expenditure on non-tertiary education comes from households and is mostly used for tuition fees (Table C3.1 and Figure C3.2).

The share of private expenditure on educational institutions differs per country and education level. Primary educational institutes in Norway and Sweden are totally funded by the government. Private funding accounts for more than 15% of Chile’s, Colombia’s, Mexico’s, Spain’s, and Turkey’s education budgets. The share of private funding at the lower secondary level is close the share of primary level. Across the OECD countries, around 9% of educational expenditure on lower secondary institutions is funded privately. Private expenditure makes for less than 10% of overall expenditure at this level, but it accounts for more than 20% in Australia, Chile, Colombia, and Turkey.

Upper secondary education is more reliant on private funding than primary and lower secondary education, which reaches to an average of 14% in OECD countries. Private funding provides a similar proportion to spending on vocational and general programmes, accounting for nearly 12% of spending on upper secondary institutions in OECD countries. Meanwhile, in Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, the share of private funding in vocational upper secondary education is at least 20% higher than

in general education. The percentage of public funds currently committed to vocational programmes in different countries is the result of multiple national policy developments on vocational education aimed at improving the transition from school to work.

According to current statistics, the average amount of public funding in post-secondary non-tertiary education among OECD nations stands on 72%. Unlike the three lower levels discussed above, post-secondary non-tertiary education in Germany, Ireland, Israel, and the United States are mainly reliant on private rather than governmental finance.


Tertiary educational institutions:

The share of private expenditure on education following public-to-private transfers is much higher at the tertiary level than at other levels of education. When private payments are required, several countries have implemented financial support measures to lessen the burden on people. After transfers, the private sector accounted for 30% of total tertiary institution expenditure in 2018. (See Figure C3.2 and Table C3.1.)

In Australia, Chile, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States, private funding accounts for 60% or more of tertiary institution funding. In countries where tuition costs are minimal or non-existent, such as Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, and Norway, the private sector accounts for less than 10% of total expenditure.

Households contribute 72% of private expenditure on tertiary institutions in OECD countries on average. While household expenditure is the major source of private funds in the most OECD countries, in Denmark and Finland nearly all private funding comes from other private entities (mostly for research and development) (Figure C3.2).

Trends in the share of public and private expenditure on educational institutions:

Educational institutions’ reliance on private funding is moderately growing (Table C3.3). Increases in the share of private funding have been reported in about half of the OECD and partner countries, with the United Kingdom showing the largest increases (12 percentage points).  Colombia, on the other hand, experienced the largest fall in the share of private spending (11 percentage points), which was balanced by an equal increase from public sources (Table C3.3).

Chile, Estonia, Italy, and Latvia saw the greatest increases in the share of private funding for non-tertiary education by approximately 3 percentage points or more between 2012 and 2018, while Portugal and the Slovak Republic saw a decrease in the share of private spending by approximately 3 percentage points (Table C3.3 and Figure C3.3).

At tertiary level, in the United Kingdom, the share of public spending decreased by 30 percentage points in 2018 compared to 2012 levels. On the other hand, the share of public spending increased by at least 10 percentage points in Chile, Colombia, Hungary, and Portugal (Table C3.3 and Figure C3.3).


Public transfers to the private sector:

Although a substantial portion of government funding goes directly to educational institutions, funds are also transferred through several other allocation mechanisms. Channeling funds for institutions through students increases competition among institutions and results in more efficient education funding. Governments use transfers to provide institutions with incentives to better organize their education programmes and teaching in order to better fulfill the needs of students.

At the non-tertiary educational level, public transfers to the private sector are not a significant feature. Public-private transfers are more prevalent in upper secondary education, accounting for 2% of total expenditure across OECD countries. While public transfers cover most of the private spending in some countries, government and international assistance cover just a tiny portion of private spending in others. This complicates access and learning since increased private spending may discourage students from enrolling in tertiary education, particularly in countries with high tuition fees.

In 2018, public-to-private transfers accounted for 8% of the total funds allocated to tertiary institutions across OECD countries. Countries with the highest transfer rates also have the highest tuition fees. In countries with no or low fees, such as Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, and Sweden, the percentage of public transfers was less than 1%. Despite high levels of private spending, public transfers to the private sector are minimal in certain countries, such as France, Lithuania, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, and Turkey.


Original text written by: Education at a Glance 2021 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) INDICATORS

Summarized by Zinat Asadova

Edited by Olga Ruiz Pilato

CHAPTER D – Indicator D3: How much are teachers school heads paid?


CHAPTER D – Teachers, the learning environment, and the organisation of schools


Indicator D3: How much are teachers school heads paid?


The following text will examine teachers’ and other school staff’s salaries at pre-primary, primary, and general secondary levels of education on average across OECD countries and economies.


The teachers’ actual salaries are 81-96% of the earnings of tertiary workers on average across OECD countries, and the salaries of male versus female teachers tends to be similar, the discrepancy among them accounts for under 2% of the actual salaries. Despite this, male lower secondary teachers’ actual salaries are around 20% lower than the earnings of tertiary-educated male workers, whereas female lower secondary teachers earn 3% more than their peers. This shows that the teaching profession may be more attractive to women than to men, compared to other professions, but it also reflects the persistent gender gap in earnings in the labour market. On average across OECD countries and economies, primary and secondary school heads’ actual salaries are at least 28% higher than the earnings of tertiary-educated workers. The salaries of school staff, and in particular teachers and school heads, represent the largest single cost in formal education. Teachers’ salaries have also a direct impact on the attractiveness of the teaching profession. Finally, there are large divergences regarding taxation and social benefits across OECD countries.


Teachers tend to receive additional compensation for working extra hours or picking up responsibilities falling outside of their contractual scope. However, school heads are less likely than teachers to receive additional compensation for performing responsibilities over and above their regular tasks.


Salaries of teachers


Teachers’ statutory salaries can vary according to several factors, including the level of education taught, their qualification level, and their level of experience or the stage of their career. In most countries and economies with available information, teachers’ salaries increase with the level of education they teach. Salary structures usually define the salaries paid to teachers at different positions in their careers. Deferred compensation, which rewards employees for staying in organisations or professions and for meeting established performance criteria, is also used in teachers’ salary structures. OECD data on teachers’ salaries are limited to information on statutory salaries at four points of the salary scale: starting salaries, salaries after 10 years of experience, salaries after 15 years of experience and salaries at the top of the scale.

Top scale refers to the amount reached after an average of 25 years, and, when reached, salaries are 67% higher than the average starting salaries. The range of salaries within countries also increases as different qualification levels of teachers can be associated to different salary scales.

The salary premium for teachers with the maximum qualifications at the top of the pay scales, and those with the most prevalent qualifications and 15 years of experience, also varies across countries.


Actual salaries of teachers


In addition to statutory salaries, teachers’ actual salaries include work-related payments, such as annual bonuses, results-related bonuses, extra pay for holidays, sick-leave pay, and other additional payments. Actual average salaries are influenced by the prevalence of bonuses and allowances in the compensation system. Differences between statutory and actual average salaries are also linked to the distribution of teachers by years of experience and qualifications, as these two factors have an impact on their salary levels. Across OECD countries and economies, in 2020, the average actual salaries of teachers aged 25-64 were USD 40,707 at pre-primary level, USD 45,687 at primary level, USD 47,988 at lower secondary level and USD 51,749 at upper secondary level.


The report establishes that education systems compete with other sectors of the economy to attract high-quality graduates as teachers, and proceeds to analyse the differences between full time and part-time work. Part-time work might be more common in education than in the rest of the labour market, not least because women make up a large proportion of teachers in most OECD countries and they are likely to work part time.


The data from teachers’ salary often comes from regulations, collective agreements, administrative sources, or sample surveys. There are differences in pension systems between teachers and other workers, whereby, in many countries, teachers in public institutions have substantial pension contributions paid by their employer, but a relatively low salary compared to the private sector. In contrast, private sector employees may have higher salaries, but they may also have to make their own pension arrangements.


Salaries of school heads


The responsibilities of school heads may vary between countries and also within countries, depending on the schools they lead. The educational activities undertaken by school heads include teaching tasks as well as the general functioning of the institution in areas such as the timetable, implementation of the curriculum, decisions about what is taught, and the materials and methods used. In addition to these, school heads may have other administrative, staff management, and financial responsibilities. With regards to their statutory salaries, school heads may be paid according to a specific salary range and may or may not receive a school-head allowance on top of their statutory salaries. The amounts payable to school heads (through statutory salaries and/or school-head allowances) may vary according to criteria related to the school(s) where the school head is based (for example the size of the school based on the number of students enrolled, or the number of teachers supervised).


About half of OECD countries and economies have similar pay ranges for primary and lower secondary school heads, while upper secondary school heads benefit from higher statutory salaries on average. The actual salaries of school heads are higher than those of teachers, and the premium increases with levels of education.


Trends in statutory salaries


According to the report, teachers’ statutory salaries increased overall in real terms in most of the countries for which data are available between 2000 and 2020. On average across OECD countries and economies with available data for the reference years of 2005 and 2020, statutory salaries increased by about 3% at primary level, 4% at lower secondary level, and 2% at upper secondary level.


Formation of base salary and additional payments: Incentives and allowances


Throughout OECD countries and economies, it is common to award additional payments, either annual or occasional, when teachers teach more classes or hours than required by their full-time contract, have responsibility as a class or form teacher, or perform special tasks, such as training student teachers. The extent to which teachers receive additional compensation for taking on extra responsibilities and the activities for which teachers are compensated vary across these countries.

Teachers and school heads are also likely to receive additional payments for working in disadvantaged, remote, or high-cost areas in half of the countries and economies with available data, with the exception of Australia, where such incentives are only provided to teachers. In most countries, the criteria to determine he most prevalent qualifications of teachers are based on a principle of relative majority (ie. the level of qualifications of the largest proportion of teachers).



Source: OECD (2021), Table D3.2 (



Original text written by OECD

Summarised by Olga Ruiz Pilato


CHAPTER D – Indicator D2: What is the student-teacher ratio and how big are classes?


CHAPTER D – Teachers, the learning environment, and the organisation of schools


Indicator D2: What is the student-teacher ratio and how big are classes?


The following document will summarise the D2 indicator by the OECD Report ‘Education at a Glance’. It will cover the student-teacher ratio and class size throughout OECD countries and economies.


There is a difference with regard to class size between public and private primary institutions. At primary level, the average class in OECD countries in 2019 had 21 students in public institutions and 20 in private institutions. On average across the countries examined, there are 15 students for every teacher in primary education and 13 students per teacher in lower secondary education. The average school class has 21 students in primary education and 23 in lower secondary education. Between 2013 and 2019, the average class size remained constant at lower secondary level both in public and private institutions.


Teachers’ salaries, instruction time, class size, and student-teacher ratios have a considerable impact on the level of current expenditure on education through teacher salary costs. The ratio of students to teaching staff is an indicator of how resources for education are allocated. There is evidence that smaller classes may benefit specific groups of students, such as those from disadvantaged backgrounds (Bouguen, Grenet and Gurgand, 2017), however, overall evidence of the effect of class size on student performance is mixed.


Class size is defined as the number of students who are following a common course of study, based on the highest number of common courses (usually compulsory studies), and excluding teaching in subgroups. Student-teacher ratios provide information on the level of teaching resources available in a country relative to its student population, whereas class size measures the average number of students that are grouped together in a classroom. The number of students per class tends to increase between primary and lower secondary education.


Class size in public and private institutions


In most OECD countries, average class sizes do not differ between public and private institutions by more than one student per class at both primary and lower secondary level. Defining a class size that ensures at the same time high attendance, teacher-student interaction, instructor feedback, and student involvement in class may prove challenging.

Class participation is a central aspect of student learning and instructor teaching, and some studies have revealed that a high amount of participation paired with peer-to-peer interaction contributes significantly to critical thinking (Frijters, ten Dam and Rijlaarsdam, 2008).


Source: OECD/UIS/Eurostat (2021), Table D2.1 (


Student-teacher ratios


Student-teacher ratios do not consider the amount of instruction time for students compared to the length of a teacher’s working day, nor how much time teachers spend teaching. There are around as many countries where the ratio is greater in vocational programmes as there are countries where it is lower. Vocational students require more careful supervision as skill training requires both specialised machinery and a greater level of human resources (Astor, Guerra and Van Acker, 2010). At upper secondary level, the student-teacher ratio is greater in public institutions than in private institutions in 17 countries, smaller in public institutions in 15 countries, and similar for both sectors in 4 countries. This mixed pattern in upper secondary education may, in part, reflect differences in the types of programmes offered in public and private institutions.


Teachers’ aides and teaching/research assistants include non-professional personnel or students who support teachers in providing instruction to students. Teaching staff refers to the professional personnel directly involved in teaching to students.


Finally, class size is calculated by dividing the number of students enrolled by the number of classes. The ratio of students to teaching staff is obtained by dividing the number of full-time equivalent students at a given level of education by the number of full-time equivalent teachers at that level and in similar types of institutions. For the ratio of students to teachers to be meaningful, consistent coverage of personnel and enrolment data are needed.


Original text written by OECD

Summarised by Olga Ruiz Pilato

Summary of Indicator C. Financial resources invested in Education

Education at a Glance 2021 | Chapter C: Financial resources invested in education 


Adequate educational payment improves productivity in the labour market as workers acquire or further develop their skills. This, in turn, influences social and economic growth. Decisions about expenditure in education are a multi-party and multi-sectoral exercise involving the government, private companies, students, and their parents. A comparative approach to analysing financial spending on education in different countries not only indicates its potential future socioeconomic impact and facilitates the determination of best practices in education-related policymaking.


Framework for international educational finance indicators

On a national level, educational institutions are most referred to units in analysing financial expenditure because of the traditional interest in knowing how much enrolment costs. However, this approach is not very practical as it does not factor in variations in the provision of resources, either within countries or between companies in comparison with each other, and does not account for the different funding sources these institutions may have.


There are three dimensions to the framework for educational institutions:

  • The location of service providers, whether they are inside or outside of education institutions. Spending outside of institutions includes books, private tutoring, living costs and transport costs;
  • The types of goods and services provided or purchased. This covers expenditure directly related to instruction and education and expenditure covers costs related to student living and services provided by educational institutions to the public.
  • The sources (private, public, or international) of the funds used to purchase these goods and services. Depending on when transactions are made, the sources of the funds can be analysed from the perspective of the initial payer (before a transfer is made) or from that of the final payer (after a transfer is made). Public transfers to private entities can either be subsidies to households, e.g., scholarships and grants, or other private entities. e.g., as part of apprenticeship programmes in companies.


Accounting for expenditure

For education, expenditure is recorded in the year in which it is spent, with the exception of expenditure for retirement costs, in which case countries are asked to attribute costs to arrive at the internationally comparable expense of employing personnel.


Summary by Farai Chikwanha from Education at a Glance 2021: OECD. Chapter C. Financial resources invested in Education

Edited by Olga Ruiz Pilato


Cover image from: Vecteezy  Attribution: <a href=””>Cartoon Vectors by Vecteezy</a>

Chapter B: Access to Education, Participation and Progress – Summary B3

B3 Who is expected to graduate from upper secondary education?

Gender profile of upper secondary graduates

An upper secondary qualification is generally the minimum requirement to integrate the labor market and necessary for continuing to further education. Young people who did not have the opportunity to finish high school face challenges in the labour market, including worse employment prospects. Moreover, men and women do not make similar choices, which explains their offers for higher education and their job opportunities. An additional indicator that can explain the non-completion of upper secondary programme is the socioeconomic background of students. Therefore, the analysis of these choices and their outcomes is very important to guaranteeing inclusive educational opportunities and defining policies that address inequalities.


Upper secondary graduation, by programme orientation

Vocational pathways are important components of upper secondary education in many OECD countries, and key opportunities for students to gain practical work experience for their future careers. Three years ago, on average across OECD countries, 38% of upper secondary graduates obtained a vocational qualification, ranging from 6% in Canada to 76% in Austria.

In general, men tend to be more interested by a vocational pathway than women (Education at a Glance Database). On average across OECD countries, in 2019, women enrolled in upper secondary graduates represented 55%, and 45% in vocational programmes, which explains the lower number of men enrolled in higher education programmes.

Upper secondary vocational graduation, by field of study

The choice of field of study when aiming for vocational education is intrinsically connected to employment outcomes and career choices. Nonetheless, choices of field of study differ by gender. Social perceptions of the role of men and women can explain the choice of careers, as well as natural inclination and preferences. A significant share of students in upper secondary vocational education graduated from engineering, manufacturing, and construction programmes in 2019, followed by business, administration and law (17%); services (17%); and health and welfare (12%).

Moreover, women are more inclined to choose subjects in the field of business, administration, and law as well as health and welfare. On the other hand, men are more interested by studying engineering as well as information, communication, and technology, which are in great demand in the labour market in OECD countries. Indeed, these differences can be explained through cultural and traditional perceptions of the role of women and men in particular career pathways. Some studies have demonstrated that these gender differences in the choice of field of study are reflected in the career expectations of 15-year-olds: on average across OECD countries, only 14% of the girls who were top performers in science or mathematics aimed to pursue a career in science or engineering, compared with 26% of the top-performing boys. During the global pandemic, most of the health-care workforce in the frontline were females (Gabster et al., 2020). The shortages of nurses across OECD economies have shed light on the importance for governments to ensure that more men apply in this field in order to resolve the resource issue in the health sector and tackle an ignored gender gap.

Gender profile of post-secondary non-tertiary graduates

Another category of post-secondary non-tertiary programmes (ISCED level 4) are offered in OECD countries. These programmes are between upper secondary and post-secondary education and may be considered either upper secondary or post-secondary programmes, depending on the education system of the respective country. However, these types of programmes are not significantly higher than upper secondary qualification, since they only expand the knowledge of students who have graduated with upper secondary qualifications. Only vocationally oriented, post-secondary non-tertiary programmes are generally less prominent in the educational landscape in comparison to other levels of education. In 2019, post-secondary non-tertiary education was constituted by only 1% of 15- to 19-year-olds enrollment rate.


Post-secondary non-tertiary graduation, by programme orientation

On average across OECD countries, approximately 95% of post-secondary non-tertiary first-time graduates have graduated from vocational programmes. The level of professionalism after graduating from these educational programmes is quite high since graduates are expected to directly integrate in the labour market.


Post-secondary non-tertiary graduation, by field of study

On average across OECD countries, 23% of post-secondary non-tertiary graduates in vocational programmes specialised in health and welfare; 21% in engineering, manufacturing and construction; and 18% in both business, administration and law and services. On average across the latter, women represent 54% of post-secondary non-tertiary vocational graduates.

However, this is not the case in all countries. It ranges from 23% in Luxembourg to 76% in Poland. Two factors can explain these variations: 1) women have a higher graduation rate in upper secondary vocational education than men so they are more likely to continue their studies in post-secondary education and, 2) the high number of female students represented in certain broad fields of study such as health and social welfare, and business, administration and law – fields which are very frequent in short-cycle tertiary vocational education at tertiary level, but especially in post-secondary non-tertiary education (OECD, 2020[2]). Furthermore, in most countries with available data, female students represent more than half of post-secondary non-tertiary graduates from vocational programmes.


First-time graduation rates

Upper secondary education is internationally considered as the minimum level of qualification for successful integration into the labor market and almost mandatory to pursue further education. The consequences of failing this level of education on time can be damaging to both individuals and society. In addition, graduate rates can be considered as a key indicator of whether governments have invested enough to increase the number of students graduating from upper secondary education. Therefore, the contrast in graduation rates among countries reflect the difference of educational systems and programmes available as well as current social norms and economic performance. 80% of adults before the age 25 should enjoy a first-time graduation from upper secondary education, if current graduation patterns continue on average across OECD countries.

Post-secondary non-tertiary graduation rates

First-time graduation rates from post-secondary non-tertiary education are generally lower than those from upper-secondary programmes. On average, 6% of today’s young adults in OECD countries will finish post-secondary non-tertiary programmes before they turn 30 if current graduation patterns continue.



Summarized by Faical Al Azib from OECD, Education at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators – Indicator B1; B2; B3. Access to Education, Participation and Progress:

Chapter B: Access to Education, Participation and Progress – Summary B2

B2 How do early childhood education systems differ around the world?

Enrolment of children under age 3

It is important for children to have access to high quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) for their development and well-being. The age at which children are likely to begin attending school can vary depending on certain factors such as, the availability and length of parental leave, as well as the typical starting age for ECEC. Moreover, the role of women in the society and, more specifically, in the labor market can be an additional indicator for the starting attendance of children into school.

On average across OECD countries, a significant increase in the enrolment of young children under the age of 3 has occurred in most OECD countries since 2005. However, not all countries have had the same pace. Some of them have invested more than others, which resulted in a drastic expansion of ECEC for children under age 3 in recent years. For example, Korea had the largest expansion between 2015 and 2019, with an increase of 13 percentage points in the enrolment of children under 3.

This expansion of ECEC, especially in Europe, can be explained through the objectives set by the European Union (EU) at its Barcelona 2002 meeting to supply subsidised full-day places for one-third of children under the age of 3 by 2010. This expansion can also be explained through the increase in women’s participation in the labour market, particularly for mothers with children under three. The data shed light on this correlation, by demonstrating the countries with higher enrolment rates of children under 3 in 2019 are those that are witnessing the highest employment rates of mothers (Table B2.1 in OECD (2018)).

Unfortunately, the affordability and access to ECEC for very young children is still perceived as a programme reserved for certain social classes. Indeed, despite government efforts to increase the affordability and accessibility of such early childhood development services, it is still too dependent on private sources of funding. Data from the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) Survey highlight that on average across European OECD countries, 0- to 2-year-olds in low-income households were one-third less likely to participate in ECEC. The difference between low-income and high-income households can vary from one country to another. For example, France and Ireland have approximately 40 percentage points of difference between families from the two social classes, whereas in Denmark there is a high participation rate of young children in ECEC regardless of parent’s income level (OECD, 2020).

Enrolment of children from age 3 to 5

Studies have revealed that an early start to a quality education can help children’s development and can be positive to prepare them for school. Therefore, this matter has been the focus of policy reform for a decade. In the past, most OECD countries had an educational system that only started from primary school. With time, these countries have realised the importance of developing ECEC for younger children.

An interesting phenomenon is the high rates enrolment of 3- to 5-year-old children in ECEC, with 87% on average across OECD countries, even though ECEC programmes are not compulsory in all countries. However, lower enrolment in ECEC can be the result of insufficient places available, lack of awareness by parents of the importance of ECEC or limited public coverage of early learning settings (OECD, 2017).

For the last ten years, enrolment of 3- to 5-year-olds in education has been developing as the fruit of the extension of compulsory education to younger children, the increase of governmental subsidies towards ECEC for some ages and targeted population groups, and universal provision for older children. Across OECD countries and its partners, there was an increase of 2 percentage points on average enrolment of 3- to 5-year-olds in pre-primary and primary schools, between 2015-2019.

Up until today, there is an ongoing debate about the appropriate age at which children should transition to primary education across most OECD countries. Indeed, ECEC programmes are usually designed to develop the cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional skills needed to participate in school and society. On the other hand, primary education aims to give pupils and a sound basic education in reading, writing and mathematics, along with preliminary understanding of other subjects (OECD/ Eurostat/UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2015). Moreover, some studies state that children below the age of primary school should be free for their personal development, before focusing in a more academically oriented programme (OECD, 2017).

Regional variation in the enrolment of 3- to 5-year-olds 

The foundations of sustainable learning for all children and supporting the main educational and social needs of families, are fair access to quality ECEC. However, the equitable access to quality ECEC is hindered depending on the geographical location, especial in rural regions where there are undeveloped public transportation infrastructures, and commuting can prove exhausting. Therefore, the percentage rate of participation in ECEC among 3- to 5-year-olds at national level can be associated with the regional socioeconomic situation. Furthermore, the ratio of children to teaching staff is a key indicator of the resources allocated to education. On average across OECD countries, every teacher is responsible of a class of 15 students in pre-primary education. Since 2015, the number of children per teaching staff at pre-primary level decreased across most OECD and partner countries. And this is an indicator that most countries are investing more resources to develop a closer interaction between the teacher and his/her students. In addition, it is also an indicator of stronger growth in the number of teachers compared to the number of children enrolled in pre-primary education.

Child-staff ratios 

It is proven that inspiring environments and high-quality pedagogy are stimulated by well qualified practitioners, and that closer child-staff interactions facilitate better learning outcomes. Therefore, smaller numbers of students per class, allow professors to focus more on the needs of individual children and reduce the amount of class time spent addressing class disruptions (OECD, 2020).

Financing early childhood education and care

Sustainable public subsidies to support the development of ECEC programmes are essential. In fact, appropriate funding aids in the recruitment of qualified trained staff, who will in turn support the growth of ECEC programmes. Additionally, investment in infrastructure would support the development of child-centered environments for well-being and learning. In sum, insufficiently subsidised ECEC can influence the ability of some parents from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds to enroll their children in these programmes.

Expenditure per child

In pre-primary education, annual expenditure for both public and private settings is approximately USD 9300 per child on average in OECD countries in 2018. Additionally, spending on ECEC can be studied as an expenditure relative to a country’s wealth. Indeed, expenditure on all ECEC settings accounted in 2018 for an average of 0.9% of gross domestic product (GDP) across OECD countries, of which two-thirds was allocated to preprimary education. The expenditures can vary due to the differences of enrolment rates, legal entitlements, and the intensity of participation, as well as the different starting ages for primary education.

Public and private provision and funding of early childhood education and care 

The type of ECEC programmes and its expansion are the reflection of parent’s needs and expectations regarding accessibility, cost, programme, staff quality, and accountability. Usually, when these important conditions are not met by public institutions, some parents may be more interested to enroll their children into the private ones (Shin, Jung and Park, 2009).

Private institutions can be categorised as independent and government dependent. Independent private institutions are owned by a non-governmental organisation or by a governing board not selected by a government agency and receive less than 50% of their core funding from government agencies. Government-dependent private institutions have similar governance structures, but they rely on government agencies for more than 50% of their core funding (OECD, 2018). The data showed that in most countries, the number of children enrolled in private institutions is much higher in early childhood education than at primary and secondary levels. On average across OECD countries, about half of the children in ECEC and a third of those in pre-primary education are enrolled in private institutions. Despite the increasing public funds allocated to public ECEC and pre-primary education institutions, the private ones are still better quality due to its higher funding from more diverse donors. Consequently, early childhood education is still perceived as a luxurious choice for many parents, particularly when they have children under the age of 3.



Summarized by Faical Al Azib from OECD, Education at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators – Indicator B1; B2; B3. Access to Education, Participation and Progress:

Chapter B: Access to Education, Participation and Progress – Summary B1

  1. B1 Who participates in education?

Compulsory education

In most OECD countries, compulsory education starts in general with primary education; by the age of 6. However, there are some varieties among OECD and partner countries. Some countries have an educational system that requires parents to enroll their children to compulsory education at an earlier age; while in other countries such as Estonia, Finland, Indonesia, Lithuania, Russia, and South Africa the primary school only begins at the age of 7. Compulsory education usually ends with the completion or partial completion of upper secondary education at the age of 16 on average across OECD countries. Moreover, on average across OECD countries, full enrolment (the age range when at least 90% of the population is enrolled in education) lasts 14 years, starting from the age of 4 to the age of 17. The period of the latter lasts between 11 and 16 years in most countries and reaches 17 in Norway.

In sum, in all OECD countries, compulsory education comprises primary and lower secondary education. In most countries, there is almost universal coverage of basic education, since enrolment rates among 6- to 14-year-olds reached or exceeded 95% in all OECD countries.


Participation of 15-19 years-olds in education

With time, countries have improved their upper secondary programmes in terms of diversity. This phenomenon is the result of the increasing demand for upper secondary education and the aftermath of significant changes in curricula and labour-market needs. Indeed, curricula have developed, from general and vocational programmes to offering more comprehensive programmes that include both types of learning, leading to more academic and professional opportunities.

On average across OECD countries, 84% of the population is enrolled in education between the age of 15 and 19. The highest share of enrollments rate is in Belgium, Ireland, and Slovenia, with 94%. However, the enrolment rate did not improve in all OECD countries; for example, Germany, Hungary, and Iceland have witnessed a fall of more than 3 percentage points among 15- to 19-year-olds. Therefore, the share of students enrolled in each education level and at each stage shed lights the various educational systems and directions among countries. The highest rate of diversification in terms of academic and professional choices, is when students reach the age of 18 years old.

An additional important factor to analyse the data on ‘’Who Participates in Education?’’, is the education enrolment per gender. Indeed, studies show that female students outnumber male students in almost all age groups and at all education levels. The difference of enrolment rates can be explained through school drop-out and, indirectly, to lower school performance and grade repetition. On average across OECD countries, boys are more likely to repeat a grade in general programmes than girls and represent 61% of the repeaters in lower secondary education and 57% in upper secondary education. Consequently, women have higher enrolment rates and better performance, while repetition rates are higher among men. However, the share of repeaters varies by country with its respective educational system and by educational level.

Participation of 20- to 24-year-olds in education

A general indicator of the transition from secondary to tertiary education is the decrease of enrolment rates on average. The average enrolment rate of 20- to 24-year-olds age group across OECD countries is almost the half of 15- to 19-year-olds: only 41% of the population aged 20-24 is enrolled in education. On average across OECD countries, 37% of the female population in this group age and 29% of their male peers are enrolled in tertiary education. The gender gap in enrolment increases even more with this age group.


Participation of adults aged 25 and older in education

Among this age category, the enrolment in education becomes less common. Indeed, the OECD average enrolment rate in all levels of education reaches 16% among 25- to 29-year-olds. Moreover, the gender gap also decreases since enrolment rates are lower above age 24. Enrolment rates are only 1 percentage point higher for 25- to 29-year-old women on average. And finally, the OECD average enrolment rate for the population aged 40 to 64 is 2%.


Subnational variations in enrolment

Subnational variation in enrolment patterns emphasises on the equality of access to education across a country, as well as long term labour-market opportunities and the value of durable learning for levels beyond compulsory education or tertiary education. In addition, in more than half of the countries with data available, the difference of the enrolment rate between subnational regions is more significant than the difference of national rates across various OECD countries.



Summarized by Faical Al Azib from OECD, Education at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators – Indicator B1; B2; B3. Access to Education, Participation and Progress: