OECD has published "Education at a Glance, OECD Indicators 2005". The publication includes information on education in the 30 member countries. Additional information can be found on 20 non-member countries, so a part of the tables include information about the education of two-thirds of the world’s population. The data are mainly from the school year 2002-2003.

The publication consists of 4 chapters which discuss the output of educational institutions and the impact of learning; financial and human resources invested in education; access to education, participation and progression and the learning environment and the organization of schools. The publication includes a summary, numerous tables and charts. Additional material can be found on the OECD website (

Education and human capital
OECD emphasizes the value of education in the development of economies and societies. Human capital is a key factor in driving economic growth and in improving economic outcomes for individuals. Information is becoming available that points to the influence of education on health and social inclusion. OECD states that governments in many countries need to do more to improve people’s access to lifelong learning and training after the end of regular education. Data indicate that lifelong learning is more readily available to those who already have a job and are better skilled.

Education is the gateway to employment and in most OECD countries the educational attainment of the population is rising. On average, three out of four inhabitants born in the 1970s in OECD countries have completed upper secondary education while only one-half of those born in the 1940s have done so. Education at the upper secondary level is the baseline for successful entry into the labour market, according to the OECD.

Education and earnings
Studies show that the earnings gap between those with more and less education is growing. In addition, people who have not completed upper secondary education run a greater risk of unemployment. In 22 of 26 OECD countries the earnings gap between those who have completed tertiary education and those who have completed upper secondary education has increased since 1997. The earnings gap ranges from 25% to 119% in the OECD countries. Women still earn less than males with similar levels of educational attainment. It is typical for women to earn 60-80% of what men with similar educational attainment earn. Earnings are distributed differently among people with the same level of educational attainment. It is common for those with higher levels of education to have higher earnings but it also occurs that people with high levels of education are found in the lower income levels. This suggests that the rates of return to education are different within countries.

Expenditure on education
Iceland’s expenditure on educational institutions relative to gross domestic product was 7.4% in 2002 which puts Iceland in first place among the OECD countries. The USA was second with 7.2% of GDP spent on educational institutions. The average of the OECD countries in 2002 was 5.8%. Iceland’s expenditure on educational institutions has increased from 6.7% of GDP in 2001. When total public expenditure on education is examined Iceland comes in fifth place among the OECD countries with 15.6% of public expenditure spent on education. In general it can be stated that the countries’ age distribution has considerable influence when comparing expenditure on education. Iceland is in the ninth place among the OECD countries with $7,548 on spent on educational institutions for every full-time student from primary to tertiary level. The average of the OECD countries is $6,687. Iceland spends more than the OECD average on compulsory education while spending just below average per student at the upper secondary level (14. place). Iceland spends $8,251 per student at the tertiary level which is approximately $2,400 less than the average spending of the OECD countries (17. place).

In many OECD countries the financing of education is changing. Many universities depend more on private funds such as tuition fees, than before. The OECD points out that expenditure and quality in education do not always go together. Finland, Japan, Korea and the Netherlands have moderate expenditure on compulsory education but still their pupils exhibit very good results in the PISA study undertaken on 15 year old pupils.

Instruction time in compulsory schools
According to Education at a Glance 7-14 year old children receive about 6,300 hours of instruction in compulsory schools in Iceland. It should be noted that the fewest instruction hours in this age group are found in Finland, approximately 5,500, but Finland has still been among the top scoring countries in the PISA study. In Japan and Korea there are fewer than 6,000 hours of instruction in this age group. In four countries children in this age group receive 8,000 hours of instruction or more.

A five year old child in Iceland could in 2003 expect to attend school for 19.2 years which is a 15% increase since 1995. The average of the OECD countries is 17.3 years. Icelandic boys can expect to attend school for 18.2 years on average but girls for 20.2 years. The difference in expected school attendance between boys and girls is among the largest in the OECD countries. In addition, the proportion of Icelandic children who attend pre-primary school is among the highest in the OECD countries. Many Icelandic students who attend school are older than the traditional school age. More than one-third (35.6%) of the 20-29 year old age group attends school and almost one-tenth (9.6%) of 30-39 year olds.

The number of students at the tertiary level has increased rapidly in Iceland in the previous years, as in many other OECD countries. The number of students at the tertiary level has increased by 83% in Iceland from 1995 to 2003. If the current participation rates continue unchanged more than one-half (53%) of young people in the OECD countries will attend tertiary type A education during their lifetime. Iceland has the highest entry rate into tertiary type A education of all OECD countries. In Iceland 83% of young people will attend tertiary type A education if the current entry rates continue. Entry rates are computed by dividing the number of new entrants in each age group by the population of that age group, then adding up the rates for the total. The high entry rate in Iceland is partly explained by the large number of older students at the tertiary level. The high entry rate will probably not continue since there is a limited number of older people in Iceland who have never attended tertiary type A level education.

Working while studying
In Iceland it is more common for females than males in the 15-24 year old age group to work while studying. A total of 35.9% of 15-19 year old females worked while studying in 2002 and 23.2% of males in the same age group. The average in the OECD countries in 2003 was 11.3% and an additional 4.9% of students were in work-study programmes.

Public and private schools
There has been an ongoing debate in the OECD countries on the benefits of private schools over public schools. The publication compares the quality of education by public and private providers using the findings of the PISA study on 15 year old pupils. OECD warns that this comparison is complicated since the student characteristics, staff ratios and the organization of the school systems are different between the OECD countries. The results depict that in nine out of 22 OECD countries pupils in private schools perform better while in two countries pupils in public schools perform better. Private schools are often more expensive for parents since they commonly charge tuition. When the social background of the pupils and the socio-economic background of the school area have been taken into account the advantage of private schools is no longer visible.

OECD’s press release on Education at a Glance and a summary of the publication in Icelandic can be found on the OECD website

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