On Monday the OECD released its 2009 version of its international educational comparisons. This is the latest version of the report that uses population surveys to show the United States has slipped in higher education degree attainment, falling from 1st in the portion of 55-64 year-olds with a postsecondary degree to 14th in for 25-34 year-olds. These are important findings, and they augment the recent push to increase the number of college graduates this country produces, but there’s a lot more in the report as well:
- The US had the seventh highest growth in its adult population between 1998 and 2006 (the light blue bar on the bottom for each country), but it had the third lowest growth in the percentage of adults attaining a college degree. Other than Mexico, where the ratio between these two variables is less than 1:1, the United States is the only other country approaching this stagnation point.
- The United States is the most expensive country in which to pursue a postsecondary education. On average, it costs almost $125,000 in public and private expenditures, and the US is more skewed towards private costs than any other nation except Korea. Americans must personally invest nearly $60,000 to obtain a degree, almost three times more than the next highest country, Canada, where citizens must pay an average of just over $20,000. We spend more public dollars than all but six countries as well.
- At the same time, college degrees pay off the most in the United States. Even after the large financial investment, a postsecondary degree is worth $113,000 in today’s dollars to American males and $82,000 for American women. For males, this is 33% higher than any other country, and for females the figure is 47%.
- On the K-12 side, US teachers spend more hours in contact with students than any other country. How is this possible, given the recent reform push for more time in schools? For one, the data aren’t perfectly clean. Some countries report survey data while others report contractual obligations. Some have formal requirements on out-of-school expectations while others do not. Some let localities determine schedules. Still, digging into the data more deeply suggests that American teachers do perform more hours of teaching and spend less time preparing and are required to focus more on direct, front-of-the-classroom instruction than international counterparts.
These and other findings available here.