The popularity of education mirrors people's anxiety about the future, especially in this economic crisis. After all, a country's ability to grow and innovate is a result of its investment in"human capital".
Unfortunately, the debate is often tainted by ideology and false ideas, and politics.This is why it is good to have hard core data so the discussion can be on facts and not on whimsy impressions from a national perspective.
Last week's OECD's release of its annual report on Education, Education at a Glance is a great tool to use. Of course, education is more than statistics and numbers, and one must be careful with relying only on these results, but as you'll see, hard data can be an interesting indication when it comes to relative numbers, in international comparison and evolution over time.
An indeed, a comparison between France, the United States and the OECD countries shows some very surprising results you might not have expected.
The enrollment rate in secondary education of 15-19 year-olds is now fairly similar in France, the United States and the OECD countries on average, but with differences in age groups. Much of the advantage of the United States stems from a high educational level among older age groups.
The global share of the population with upper secondary education : (Table A1.2a)
All adult population
- 89% to 84% in France (-5points) - slightly below the average of 21 EU countries (86%)
- 72% to 82% in the U.S. (+10 points)
- 73% to 82% in OECD on average (+9 points)
The effect of immigration background
- France (US$ 10 231), 12% more than OECD average.
- US (US$ 12097)
- OECD (US$ 8 972 )
- France 6%
- US : 7.2%
- OECD : 5.9%
The decrease in French spending on education is even greater in its part of budget compared to the US or the OECD group :
Share of total public expenditure to education (Table B4.1.)
Even more noticeable, France is the only country where the public cost is greater than the benefit in secondary education The calculation includesthe higher taxes and social contributions
The public cost and benefits for a man obtaining in US$
… a secondary education
…a tertiary education
Salary cost per student in US$, 2008 (Table B7)
Most countries have seen a decrease of the part of the GDP for teachers’ salary but only in France and Australia has it remained far inferior to the OECD average.
Starting salary in US$
Slaray after 15 years of experience in US$
Top level salary in US$
Lower Secondary Education
Upper level education
The French teachers teach more hours in primary school but fewer hours in lower secondary schools and slightly fewer in upper secondary education.
"The proportion of working time spent teaching provides information on the amount of time available for activities such as lesson preparation, correction, in-service training and staff meetings. A large proportion of working time spent teaching may indicate that less time is devoted to tasks such as student assessment and lesson preparation."
This has become such a problem that last Friday, president Obama announced a reform of the 'No Left Behind Act' to minimize the need for educators "to teach to the test"
Number of teaching hours per year (2009) (Table D4.2)
Lower secondary education
Upper scondary Education
- France : 35
- US : 38
- OECD : 38
Class size is another element showing the working conditions of teachers :
Average class size in public schools, 2009 (Table D2.1)
Lower secondary education
Ratio of students to teaching staff*, 2009 (Table D2.2)