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2023-09-12 at 10h14

OECD: more young people completing secondary and higher educaiton, more students in vocational studi

 The OECD published today the Education at a Glance 2023 report, which paints the current picture of educaiton in the 38 member states, among which is Portugal, and in partner countries.

The report notes the pretty positive evolution Portugal has had in most indicators, where the OECD highlighted the high growth seen between 2015 and 2021 in the percentage of young people aged 25 to 34 years who completed higher education (from 33% in 2015 to 44% in 2021), as well as the significant decrease in those who did not hold secondary education qualifications (16 percentage points, from 33% to 17%), whereas the percentage of youths aged between 25 and 34 years with secondary education qualifications rose 5 percentage points, mostly due to the rise in the percentage of youths with vocational secondary education qualifications (from 14% to 20%).

Focus on vocational education

These data, as well as the fact this EAG report places a particular focus on vocational education, are in line with the Portuguese Government’s vision of this educational and training offer. Although, as the OECD notes, the percentage of people enrolled in vocational education hasn’t yet reached the OECD average, we must stress the public policies that have been developed over the last few years and which represent a significant improvement in those indicators. We must also note that, according to the last data disclosed by the Directorate-General for Education and Science Statistics, in 2021, 70% of youths who had enrolled three years prior, completed their vocational courses (in 2014/15 this figure was 53%) and 24% were enrolled in higher educaiton the following year (in 2014/15; 15%).

This evolution shows the path trailed by Portugal in this area, with a special highlight of the creation of Vocational Higher Technical Courses, the funding of vocational courses, the creation of special conditions for students who complete their secondary educaiton through this means to attend higher education and, above all, the investment in enhancing the dual certification as an offering that prepares youths for an easier and more qualified entry into the labour market, allowing them to at the same time to continue their post-secondary and higher education studies.

More schooling, better income 

We also note that, according to the OECD, the percentage of youths aged between 18 and 24 years who are not employed or attending educaiton or training programmes in Portugal stands at 11.4% (2.9 p.p less than last year), a figure below the OECD average of 14.7%. If we only consider youths with higher education, this figure drops to 9,8%, which places Portugal below the OECD average (9.9%).

In the 25 to 34 age bracket, the employment rates for youths with higher education in the OECD countries on average are 8 percentage points higher than those who completed secondary education or post-secondary non-higher education and 26 percentage points higher than those who have the third cycle of basic schooling or below that. In Portugal, this difference is of 5 and 18 percentage points.

Higher levels of schooling represent higher incomes. On average, in the OECD countries, young adults who have completed higher education are paid 44% more than those who completed their secondary or post-secondary non-higher education, whereas those who completed short-term higher education earn 17% more on average (in Portugal, these percentages are 58% and 16%, respectively).

In Portugal, using secondary education as a reference, the income for individuals between 25 and 64 year with the third cycle of basic schooling or lower are, on average, 17% lower; and the income for individuals with higher education, is on average 71% higher (an amount greater than the OECD average, where the income of individuals with higher education is on average 56% greater than that of individuals with secondary schooling levels) .

These data show the advantages of a rise in qualification levels in terms of better job perspectives, with a greater capacity to overcome unemployment, as well as having higher wages.

Investment in teaching

In terms of the investment in educational policies which, overall, is in line with that seen last year, it is important to note the impact of the intervention in earlier ages. Portugal has a high rate of pre-school attendees, where we note 78% enrolment of children aged (compared to the OECD average of 73%), which reflects the great effort made by the country in this field.

Teachers’ and school heads’ wages are clearly important in making teaching an attractive occupation, but they also account for the greatest expenditure in formal teaching. In most OECD countries, the average annual wages for teachers aged 25-64 years (and school heads) in public institutions go up the higher the level at which they teach (which is not the case with Portugal, as kindergarten teachers’ annual wages are higher than that of secondary education teachers), as well as experience. In the OECD, teachers’ average wages vary between USD 42 371 for pre-school and USD 53 119 for secondary school. In Portugal teachers’ average waves varies between USD 51 788 and USD 49 929, respectively the inverse amounts, USD equivalent in PPC for private consumption).

In Portugal, teachers’ wages were unlocked in 2018 (they had been locked for the previous period due to the financial contingency in Portugal) which allowed for a gradual recovery of teachers’ wages until 2022. At the moment considering individuals aged between 25 and 64 years, secondary school teachers in Portugal earn 42% more than workers with higher education. Portugal is one of the few countries where teachers with tenure’s wages are still higher than those of workers with higher education, as the teaching population is ageing - 48% are over 50 years old, higher than the OECD average (40%) - and, as such, a large part of teachers are at the height of their teaching career.

The time of students in education for longer than average and the size of classes below average in Portugal (the ratio of students to teachers was 12.0 in the first and second cycles of basic schooling and 9.2 in the third cycle of basic schooling, and 10.5 in secondary schooling and 15.4 in higher education (figures always below the OECD and EU25 average) are, according to the OECD, the main factors that explain why the cost of wages of teachers per student in the first and second cycles of basic schooling are higher than the OECD average (USD 4,074 USD vs the OECD average of USD 3,614), although the teaching hours above the average lower this cost. Teachers’ wages slightly above average only have a small impact on the wage cost per student in basic schooling.