Educational Glance: the divide increased

It’s that time of year again. OECD has just published its annual Education at a Glance. I was actually working at the OECD in the 1970s (yes, I know…) when EAG was first developed, though I had no hand in it. In those days the title was descriptively accurate – EAG was a slim document you could flip through quickly. Today the title is richly ironic.

Anyway, forsaking nostalgia for my youthful time in Paris I turned to the figures for female and male achievement. They confirm the basic trend: women continue to increase their educational lead over men, at every level and in almost every subject. The situation is best summed up in the following statistic:

  • 51% of 25-34 year-old women have a tertiary level degree, compared with 38% of men
  • this represents a rise of 11% for women from their 2008 figure of 40%, whereas the male figure has gone up by just 7%, from 31%.

It’s very well known that more women go into tertiary education. What I found most striking is the difference at Masters level, where women now make up 61% of new entrants. Once in, they stay the course better: completion rates are higher everywhere. On average, 44% of women but only 33% of men complete a bachelors course within the theoretical time limit; if you give them three more years, it’s 72% and 61%.

The figure below is just one of hundreds from EAG. Those white circles float above the columns like balloons. But unless women are able to rise to their appropriate levels in the workplace, the balloons won’t be lifting us all up as much as they could be.

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