PARIS, France – Boosting access to vocational training will be critical to ensure more young people can meet increasing demands for skilled workers and adapt to and benefit from the profound changes spurred by the green and digital transformations.
The OECD Education at a Glance 2023 says that 44 percent of all upper secondary students are enrolled in vocational education and training (VET) across the OECD. Despite this high share, vocational programmes are still seen as a last resort in too many countries.
Vocational training can help bridge the divide between schooling and employment and improve learning outcomes by providing skills best acquired at work, says the report. Strengthening the involvement of industry in VET should be a priority. Less than half of all upper secondary VET students are enrolled in programmes that include elements of work-based learning.
Ensuring stronger pathways between VET and other levels of education would help. On average across OECD countries, a quarter of VET students are enrolled in upper secondary programmes without direct access to tertiary education. Vocational programmes must provide the required qualifications to continue studying at tertiary level. More tertiary programmes also need to be designed to be built on the skills that vocational graduates have.
Better and earlier career guidance is key. Young people need access to effective career guidance to encourage them to explore more employment opportunities from an early age. Students should also be able to visit workplaces and interact with a range of workers before they have to make any final decisions.
“This year’s Education at a Glance identifies opportunities to strengthen the role of education systems in empowering young people to succeed and ensuring merit-based equality of opportunity. The number of young adults with upper secondary qualifications across the OECD is improving, up from 82 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds in 2015 to 86 per cent in 2022,” OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said. “However, young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds continue to fall behind. Countries need to focus on closing education gaps and provide more support to disadvantaged students and schools to give more young people the opportunity for a productive career, pay and prospects.”
Well-qualified and motivated teachers are essential for strong education systems, according to the report, but too many countries still prioritise smaller classes over raising teacher quality and making teaching careers more attractive, especially given that many OECD countries are facing teacher shortages. Average wages at primary level are 13 percent below those of other workers with tertiary education. For upper secondary teachers, the gap is still 5 percent.
Across the OECD, average statutory wages for primary and secondary teachers have grown by less than 1 per cent per year in real terms since 2015. In almost half of OECD countries, where data is available, real statutory wages have fallen. In Luxembourg, for example, real wages of upper secondary teachers have declined by 11 percent since 2015 and in Hungary the decline was 7 percent over the same period. The situation will likely worsen in many countries when taking into account the inflation of the last 12 months, says the report.
Countries should increase opportunities for career progression, reduce teachers’ administrative workload, improve the public image of teachers and boost pay in order to attract high-quality teaching staff.
Education at a Glance provides comparable national statistics measuring the state of education worldwide. The report analyses the education systems of the OECD’s 38 member countries, as well as of Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, India, Indonesia, Peru, Romania, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.