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IN THE SPOTLIGHT
New Report on Education Statistics Extends Comparative Indicators to G-20
By Tiffany Razavi, TIE Staff Writer 24-May-16
For the first time since it began its twice-yearly Comparative Indicators of Education report series in 2002, in December 2015 the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the United States broadened its analysis from the G-8 to include the G-20 countries, which together represent two-thirds of the global population, and 85 percent of the world’s economy. The report is based on information from the OECD project on International Indicators of Education Systems (INES) and includes reading literacy data from fourth graders, mathematics and science data from fourth and eighth graders, PISA data from 15-year-olds, and literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving data from 16- to 65-year-olds. Defined as ages 5–29 years, school-age population trends across the countries in the study vary considerably, but according to the report overall there was a decline in this age group. Enrollment rates among 5- to 14-year-olds are virtually universal in all participating countries, while they have the widest range, from just 12 percent in Turkey to 99 percent in France for 3- to 4-year-olds. For 15- to 19-year-olds, the span is from 34 percent (China) to 92 percent (Germany), and for 20- to 29-year-olds the rate is from 10 percent (Indonesia) to 33 percent (Australia). Although representing the greatest absolute number, the percentage of international students in higher education is at its lowest (3 percent) in the U.S. The highest percentages are in Australia (20 percent) and the U.K. (17 percent). In reading, mathematics, and science at fourth grade, in a majority of reporting countries three-quarters or more students scored at least at the intermediate international benchmark. The highest percentages of advanced readers were in the U.K. and the Russian Federation. By contrast, in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, over one-third did not reach the low international benchmark for reading. In mathematics, the report highlights Japan and the Republic of Korea with the greatest proportions of advanced scores, a finding echoed in relation to science in Korea. By eighth grade, percentages reaching at least the intermediate benchmark in both mathematics and science have declined. Korea and Japan continue to top the numbers. In reading literacy at age 15 (using PISA scores from 1 to 6), the report indicates that in two countries (Indonesia and Argentina) more than half of the students assessed were at Level 1 or below; in science, three countries fell into this category; in mathematics, four. Countries with the highest percentages of Levels 5 or 6 reading literacy were Japan, Korea, Canada, and France. For both mathematics and science, Korea and Japan again were in the top three, joined by Germany in the case of mathematics and Australia in science. Findings of adult performance show that in all countries basic literacy is stronger than basic numeracy. At the higher levels of proficiency, Japan and Australia have the strongest scores in both, alongside Germany for numeracy. In all participating countries, more fourth-grade girls liked reading than boys; in all but one country more females reported being motivated to read; and in a majority of countries more girls of this age expressed confidence in reading. In mathematics, in some countries there were small or no real gender differences, in others there were higher percentages of males interested in mathematics, and in two—Saudi Arabia and Turkey—higher percentages of females liked mathematics. In science, just over half of countries reported more males than females liking science in fourth grade. By eighth grade, the trend is for more boys than girls to like and express an interest in both mathematics and science. In terms of educational attainment, in four countries graduation rates from secondary education were above 90 percent, and in all but one, at least 50 percent. A greater percentage of first university degrees were obtained in the social sciences, business, and law than any other discipline, except in Korea and Germany where the highest number were awarded in mathematics, science, and engineering; and Saudi Arabia where arts and humanities were most common. In a majority of countries, the smallest percentage of first degrees was in the field of education. In all countries, employment rates rose with increasing educational attainment, although the scale of the increase differed across countries, and higher levels of education were associated with higher incomes. In all countries also, men had higher employment rates than women. Germany boasts the highest average starting salary for public school teachers. In most other G-20 countries, the starting salary is less than the average GDP per capita. The U.S. spends more on education than any other participating country—US$10,900 per student (combined primary and secondary)—followed by Australia at US$9,600, and compared with US$1,900 in Turkey, at the lowest end of the spectrum.
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