Looking at the UK's educational performance through international data comparisons
- The OECD study evaluates the proportion of the working-age population (25-64 year-olds) who are in employment, controlling for individuals’ highest qualification level. This being: below secondary; secondary and tertiary level.
- Overall, there is a positive association between qualification level and likelihood of working; almost 7 in 10 individuals with a tertiary degree in full-time work compared to slightly over 4 in 10 individuals who had not completed their secondary-level studies.
- The UK’s score is close to the OECD average.
- UK value is based on the average for England and Northern Ireland (and therefore is not representative of Scotland or Wales).
- Abbreviations: FT (Full-time); PT (Part-time).
Proportion of the working-age population in full-time, part-time or no form of paid employment based on their highest qualification level.
- The OECD study evaluates barriers to learning in the working age population across 27 OECD and 2 non-OECD countries (Singapore and Russia).
- Each figure represents the proportion of the working-age population (25-64 year olds) who agreed that the statement represented a barrier to academic participation (e.g., expense, personal responsibilities).
- Overall, the time dedicated to working was the most popular reason for not entering a course across the sample.
- Other common causes for non-participation included expenses and individual responsibilities.
- Interestingly, the vast majority did not see their prior attainment as a barrier to qualification uptake.
- UK value is based on the average for England and Northern Ireland (and therefore is not representative of Scotland or Wales).
Reasons for non-participation in study in the working age (25-64 year-old) population across 29 countries.
- Figures represent the difference (%) in employment rates between foreign-born and native-born populations across OECD countries, using employment for the native-born population as the baseline category.
- Positive integers highlight that there is a higher employment rate in the native-born than foreign-born population.
- In the UK, there was less than a 2 percentage point gap between the proportion of the foreign-born and native-born population classified as (un)employed, as of 2019.
- On average, across OECD countries, the employment gap between members of the native and foreign-born population increases with higher levels of attainment (-1.3%, 6.5% and 10.8%, respectively).
- Therefore, whilst there is typically a higher proportion of the foreign-born than native-born population in employment across the low attainment bracket, the trend is reversed for groups demonstrating (above) average attainment.
- Added values of 0 reflect data gaps in the OECD database, excluding total employment differences for Ireland (employment rates were identical for the foreign and native-born population).
- Data gaps were excluded from calculations computing OECD averages.
Variations in employment by place of birth and attainment bracket across OECD countries.
- Across OECD countries, there is considerable variety in the subjects studied at tertiary/undergraduate degree level.
- Certain subjects were markedly more popular than others: Business (24.6%); Health (15.4%); Engineering (14.2%); Education (10%); Arts (9.7%) and Social Sciences (9.6%).
- The proportion of students in the UK studying subjects related to engineering, health, business and education was slightly below the OECD average.
- Comparatively, the proportion of qualifications in Social Sciences and the Arts was higher than the average across the listed OECD countries.
- However, it is important to note that the data may distort broader uptake patterns in specific field areas. For example, engineering and health-related professions can be pursued at Level 3 study and/or without an undergraduate qualification in the UK.
Graduates in individual fields of study as a proportion of total tertiary graduates by country in 2019.
- OECD study investigating the proportion (%) of young people who are NEET across OECD countries, as of 2021.
- In the UK, slightly under 3 in 20 (13.6%) of 20-24 year olds were not in any form of employment, education or training last year.
- This is 2 percentage points lower than the OECD average (15.8%).
- South Africa observed the highest (52%) and Netherlands the lowest (8%) proportion of 20-24 year olds identified as NEET.
20-24 year-olds identified as not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) as a percentage of the total age group across OECD countries as of last year.
- In the UK, there is a 5 percentage point gender gap in the percentage of 16-54 year-olds who have completed tertiary education; 52% of women and 47% of men.
- Across 86% (37) of the 43 countries, more women than men have completed tertiary qualifications.
- Indonesia, Austria, Chile and Mexico are the countries with the most balanced representation of men and women with tertiary qualifications in the general population.
- Comparatively, Estonia and Latvia observed the largest gender imbalances; a 20 and 17 percent point gap, respectively.
Percentage of 25-64 year-olds who have completed tertiary education by gender as of 2020.
- The UK ranks 8th in the 2019 Statista Survey measuring the percentage of the national population progressing onto post-secondary qualifications.
- Costa Rica observed the lowest (17.6%) and Czech Republic the highest (69.5%) proportion of school leavers with secondary qualifications as their highest level of education in 2019.
- On average, 6 in 10 continued their studies after secondary school across OECD countries.
- This partly reflects the variation of compulsory school leavings ages and secondary school completion rates.
The percentage of the population with upper secondary qualifications as their highest level of education.
- The UK’s maths performance is significantly ahead of the average for OECD nations.
- In 2018, the UK’s score rose significantly. The UK was ranked 17th of the nations surveyed, up from 28th in 2015.
- Asian countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and China’s main cities achieve the highest scores and rankings.
- Amongst Western countries, Estonia, Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland are among those with higher scores than the UK.
The OECD PISA Survey
- The UK was ranked 14th in science in 2018 and has held a similar position for the last decade.
- The UK, like many nations including Japan, Korea, Finland and Canada, has seen its score gently falling since 2012.
- Singapore has maintained the most consistent score.
- China has the highest score but based on research in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang only.
International Comparison of Science Skills at age 15
- The UK’s reading score has changed little since 2012.
- The UK’s score is similar to the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
- In 2018 the highest scores are achieved by Asian countries – Singapore, Hong Kong and China’s main cities.
- Amongst western countries, Estonia, Finland, Canada and Ireland achieve the highest scores.
International Comparison of Reading Skills at age 15
Levers of change: Ways that policymakers can shape the education system
With a general election looming there is much debate in the world of education about the next government’s decisions on what our children learn. But deciding this is only part of the issue for any new government. Just as important is understanding how they can actually implement those decisions. Knowing the advantages and drawbacks of all the different levers at government’s disposal is vital. In this blog, AQA’s head of external affairs Reza Schwitzer discusses what these levers are and their pros and cons.
Extended Project Qualifications: What do the statistics say about student growth?
A former student from Nottingham College won top prize in AQA’s Project Excellence Awards 2023/24 for her Extended Project Qualification on Queerness and Vampirism. Jessica Burton is now embarking on the next stage of her education journey on Cambridge University’s Foundation Year in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, thanks in part to the UCAS points earned through her EPQ. With that in mind, it seems the ideal moment for AQi to explore what the statistics say about how completing an EPQ can improve progression to Higher Education, degree course outcomes and social mobility.
Digital exams: A chance to make assessment more accessible for all
A recent symposium on inclusive educational assessment at Hughes Hall, Cambridge, attracted experts from across the country. AQA lead researcher Dr Katy Finch was in the audience listening to leading academics from the fields of social exclusion, autism, dyslexia and neurodiversity. In this blog, Dr Finch draws on ideas discussed that day to deliberate on the opportunities digitising assessment offers those facing barriers in mainstream education and asks: Can we use Digital Exams as a chance to make assessment more inclusive for everyone?
The Baker Reforms: What is their legacy 35 years on?
In 1988, Lord Baker created arguably the most important piece of education legislation since the war. The impact of the Education Reform Act is almost undeniably greater than anything that has come since. Its significance was immediately apparent but, if anything, it may be even more significant now. AQi investigates the legacy of the Baker education reforms 35 years on.
Post exam analysis: How to improve student experience
Every year, once exam season ends, AQA experts look at student scripts to assess how well the exam papers were constructed. AQA’s 2023 Maths GCSE performed particularly well, even though grading returned to 2019 standards and the Advance Information used in 2022 was not there. Andrew Taylor, head of maths curriculum and Shaun Procter-Green, maths assessment lead, tell how their work redesigning the papers paid off, allowing students to better show off their skills.
Let’s make it happen: The case for digital exams
AQA has published a new report outlining why now is the right time to start moving towards digital exams in some subjects. Making It Click: The case for digital examinations in England argues that far from being a revolutionary move, moving some exams off paper and onto the computer screen is the latest evolution in education in the same way that fountain pens replaced quills and scrolls morphed into printed books. In this blog, Adam Steedman-Thake, AQA’s Policy and Evidence Manager, gives the highlights of his report. He outlines the research that informed AQAs position and shows the benefits of digitally examining some subjects for learners, teachers and the education sector as a whole.
Greater Manchester’s MBacc: What digital skills education could look like
Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, wants Greater Manchester’s digital sector to become ‘world-class’ employing 95,000 people by 2026. Creating a Greater Manchester Baccalaureate (MBacc) to guide technical education locally is central to his plans for developing highly-skilled, workplace-ready young people. But what skills will students need if they are to succeed in the digital era and how can schools teach them? John Sibbald, one of the mayor’s advisors in his MBacc planning group, thinks it is time to switch focus from teaching ‘digital skills’ to developing students ‘digital agency’ instead.
On-line and on-demand: The future for assessing Numeracy, Literacy and Digital Fluency?
Numeracy, Literacy and Digital Fluency are the skills that will ensure young people are prepared for the wider world when they leave education. AQA has published a new report proposing a new assessment, similar to a driving test, for all students including those who struggle in the current system. Author of “A, B, C, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3” Towards new assessments for Numeracy, Literacy and Digital Fluency, Adam Steedman Thake, AQA’s Policy and Evidence Manager, highlights key points from his report that illuminate the problem and signpost a much-needed solution.
Bacc again: A policy briefing on baccalaureate curriculum models
What could a baccalaureate look like in England? AQi explores some of the options.
Citizenship Studies: Inspiring civic responsibility
In a recent episode of Alistair Campbell and Rory Stewart’s popular podcast, ‘The Rest is Politics’, the pair discussed political education in school. Both spoke of their surprise at the lack of knowledge about government and the political process in students they had met and agreed the subject should be taught from an early age. But did they know that teachers already have a ready-made tool to do just that? Keen podcast listener and AQA’s Head of Curriculum for Citizenship Studies, Matt Narain, fills in the blanks to reveal how young people are being educated about the political sphere.