Education at a Glance 2012: OECD Indicators

Carmakers hang their hats on J.D. Power and Associates’s annual safety ratings. Television stations live by Sweeps Week. And those interested in international educational competitiveness have the OECD’s annual Education at a Glance report. This vast compilation of data reports on the output of educational institutions (including achievement, graduation rates, equity, and labor-market outcomes); the resources invested in education (financial and human-capital, at the K-12 and higher-ed levels); access to education (including for pre-K youngsters and adult learners); and the “learning environment” (meaning class sizes, teaching time, examinations, etc.). The facts are interesting all by themselves. For example, the U.S. spends 7 cents less of each education dollar on teacher compensation than the OECD average (63 cents), but 8 cents more than average on non-teaching personnel (16 cents). (Caveat: While pension benefits are factored into this analysis, health-care benefits are not.) Further, the authors find that, even though evidence of the effects of class size on student achievement is weak, the student-teacher ratio has decreased in more than two-thirds of the countries studied, with a concomitant impact of education expenditures. Partake seriously of the data, but be careful not to overindulge in the report’s policy recommendations. While a few are palatable—adjust policy to allow effective teachers, irrespective of seniority, to spend more time teaching and mentoring their peers, for example—many others are stale.

SOURCE: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators (OECD Publishing, September 2012).

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