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In Many Countries, Access to Higher Ed Is Not Guaranteed, Report Says

Report: “Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators”

Organization: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

Summary: A survey of 44 countries found that increasing emphasis on vocational education and curriculum changes have greatly improved access to elementary and secondary education, but the changes have not had the same effect on higher education.

While an estimated 84 percent of young people today will complete a high-school education over the course of their lives, an average of just 34 percent of women and 31 percent of men earned a college degree in 2012, according to a report on the survey.

The lack of access to higher education is particularly pronounced for low-income students and those who parents may not have completed either secondary or higher education.

The report says that total spending on education has remained mostly consistent since a survey conducted in 2000. On average, countries spent 12.9 percent of their budgets on education in 2011, with just under 4 percent of that amount spent on higher education.

Average student debt also differed across the 44 countries. In 2012, American students had an average debt at graduation of $24,500, while Turkish students owed $5,200. In some Nordic countries, the debt rates were also high—an average of $25,000 in Norway—but those student loans also covered housing and other expenses not typically included in the United States.

Angel Gurría, the organization’s secretary general, cautioned that average numbers can be misleading, disguising large-scale differences between how countries tackle education issues.

Bottom Line: “This large collection of data on education and skills helps countries to compare and benchmark themselves, and will assist them in identifying policies that work,” Mr. Gurría wrote.

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