Data Stories

International

Looking at the UK's educational performance through international data comparisons

International
OECD 2012-2015: Barriers to academic participation
Data collected from: OECD Education Data View Sourceicon / arrow right
  • 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.

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International
OECD 2019: Employment rate by birthplace and prior attainment
  • 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.

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International
  • 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.

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International
OECD 2021: 20-24 year olds not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET)
  • 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.


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International
OECD 2020: Gender Imbalances in Tertiary Education
  • 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.

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International
Levelling Up: Over two thirds of the UK population have completed post-16 qualifications
  • 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.


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International
Maths: the UK’s PISA score has risen significantly
  • 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


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International
Science: ranked 14th by PISA, the UK is ahead of many European nations
  • 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

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International
Reading: the UK’s PISA score is similar to the US and Australia
  • 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

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