Policy Brief: Education at a Glance 2022

Policy Brief: Education at a Glance 2022
Early Childhood Ireland Policy Brief

The OECD has released Education at a Glance 2022, a source for data on the state of education around the world. It covers all levels of education, from early years to tertiary.

Enrolment

The report details that early childhood education is important to give students from all backgrounds an equal start in their education. The report found that 83% of children aged between three and five years old were enrolled in early childhood education across OECD countries. The average enrolment rates for three to five-year-olds increased by 1% between 2015 and 2020. However, children under the age of three are often cared for at home or in programmes that are not classified as early childhood education. Only 27% of children under the age of three from across the OECD are enrolled in early childhood education.

The report states that in 2020 more than one in four children under the age of three were enrolled in formal early childhood education settings across OECD countries. This ranges from 2% in countries like Luxembourg and Poland to more than 50% in Denmark and Israel. The report also shows that access to early childhood education is still very dependent on family background and income. On average across European OECD countries, zero to two-year-olds from low-income households are a third less likely to partake in early childhood education than children from high-income households. In countries such as Ireland and France the difference in participation rates between low-income and high-income households exceeds 40%.

Staffing

Education at a Glance 2022 also looks at staffing in early childhood education. In countries such as Japan, more than 70% of pre-primary staff are teachers. The age distribution of staff in the sector varies across countries. On average across OECD countries teachers under the age of 30 make up 18% of the workforce at pre-primary level, whereas staff over the age of 50 make up 29%. In 15 out of the 33 countries with available data, the share of teachers over the age of 50 is double that of teachers under the age of 30. This may lead to issues with replacing retiring teachers in the future.

The report notes that good working conditions, competitive salaries and career development opportunities might attract young people to the profession. However, in most OECD countries the average salaries of pre-primary teachers are significantly lower than those of full-time, full-year workers with tertiary workers. In the USA and Slovakia, the salaries of pre-primary teachers are less than 60% of those workers with tertiary education. However, in Australia pre-primary teachers earn 5% more than tertiary-educated workers. This rises to 30% in Lithuania and 50% in Portugal.

Women dominate the teaching profession at most levels of education with the greatest concentration coming in early childhood education. Governments in several OECD countries have attempted to attract more men to the early childhood education workforce. In Norway, the ‘Play Resources’ project encouraged boys to experience working in Early Years settings and consider it as a career.

Funding

The report argues that sustained public financial support is crucial for the growth of early childhood education and care programmes. It notes that pre-primary education annual expenditure for both public and private settings averaged about $9,600 per child in OECD countries in 2019. This ranges from less than $5,000 in Columbia and Ireland to more than $16,000 in Iceland, Luxembourg, and Norway. The number of weeks per year settings are required to open impacts this expenditure. For example, in Norway, pre-primary settings are open, on average, for 48 weeks per year. In Greece and Spain this drops to 35 weeks per year.

The report also shows that in most countries the share of children enrolled in private institutions is significantly higher in early childhood education than in primary or secondary education. On average, about half of the children in early childhood educational development services and a third of those in pre-primary education attend private institutions. There are significant discrepancies across countries. In countries like the Czech Republic and Switzerland, less than 5% children in pre-primary education are enrolled in private institutions. However in Australia, Indonesia, and Ireland at least 75% of children attend private institutions.

For years Ireland has lagged behind other OECD countries in terms of expenditure on early years education. Finally, in Budget 2023 we see expenditure on the Early Years sector reaching the €1 billion mark. This brings us closer to other countries in terms of Early Years expenditure. However, the focus must always be on quality care and education. This increase in funding must be focused on advancing this goal.

Though this report focuses mainly on tertiary education, it still has some important and interesting findings regarding Early Years education. If you have any questions on Education at a Glance 2022 report or would like to engage with us, please email our Policy team at policy@earlychildhoodireland.ie.

 

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