Education International
Education International

Latest OECD report shows need to invest in education in times of crisis

published 11 September 2012 updated 11 September 2012

EI has reacted to the launch of the latest Education at a Glance (EaG) by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This report states its case for a public investment in education, arguing that the gap between well-educated and poorly educated persons has widened as a result of the global recession. EaG also reiterates that access to (higher) education is crucial for the return to economic stability and social development.

This year's report gives greater attention to the impact of the worldwide economic recession on education and labour markets in OECD countries. It shows that the impact of economic conditions on the likelihood that an individual will be employed and have a higher income varies significantly by both educational attainment and gender.

During the recent economic crisis, the report notes, the increase in the average unemployment rate for individuals without an upper secondary education was 1.1 percentage points higher than for those with at least an upper secondary degree and 2.4 percentage points higher than for those with a tertiary education.

For EI, throughout its analysis of the impact of the economic crisis on unemployment rates, OECD’s interpretation and policy recommendations focuses on education systems matching the skills requirements of the labour market. This approach undermines the concept of education as human right, limiting it to its economic dimension.

EaG also finds that public expenditure on education as a percentage of total public expenditure has decreased in 19 out of 32 individual countries, between 2005 and 2009, although it remained at 13% of total public expenditure on average in all OECD countries. Students and families have been burdening an increasing share of the costs of education in many OECD countries (through the introduction of or increases in tuition fees); this is a trend that the report indicates may impede a countries’ educational attainment.

Concerning gender equity, the report finds that the employment rate of women is far below that of men at all levels of education, despite the fact that women on average are attaining higher education levels across many OECD countries. Additionally, the report found that women’s recent higher education achievements did little to narrow the gender gap in earnings.

When identifying incentives – and disincentives - to invest in education, the OECD suggest that “one way to mitigate weak labour market returns is to provide higher education at lower costs for the individual”, by subsidising the direct costs of education or providing students with loans and grants to improve incentives and access to education. It also underlines trade-offs between taxes and the direct costs of education (tuition fees).

In the final part of his editorial statement, Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary General, underlines that “because changes to the global economy affect both countries and individuals, countries should take care to strike a careful balance between providing appropriate public support for education and requiring students and families to cover some of the costs.” As demonstrated by several indicators throughout OECD analysis, students and families have been bearing an increasing share of the costs of education in many OECD countries.

“This year’s Education at a Glance supports what EI has been saying since the beginning of the crisis,” said EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen. “Education is human right and, therefore, sustained and sufficient public financing of education is necessary despite any economic downturn or budgetary contraction, in order to achieve that right for all. EI advocates for publicly funded, autonomous and democratically accountable education, as part of the long-term solution to any economic downturn. An effective and well-funded education system ensures the future success, well-being and employability of the next generation. This is the reasoning behind EI’s campaign ‘Education in crisis’.”

You can go on EI Education in crisis website by clicking here

EI summary of EaG key findings is available here