Education at a Glance: Big data can help union advocacy

published 11 September 2018 updated 13 September 2018

The relationship between education and equity is the focus of this year’s ‘Education at a Glance’ (EAG) report.

Published today, September 11, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the report offers the most comprehensive view of education in OECD countries. Its findings can help strengthen the advocacy of education unions. This year it focuses on how well education is improving equity. As in previous years, the EAG report contains evidence that shows that quality education for all remains a distant goal.

Achieving the SDGs.

The data compiled by the report sheds light on the issues that hamper the achievement of equity in education and, consequently, the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on Education (“to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”). The inclusion of this information in the EAG report highlights the OECD’s support for action to achieve the United Nations’ SDGs.

Cut in education spend

The report also finds that funding for education is on the decline in many countries: between 2010 and 2015, the expenditure on educational institutions at all levels as a share of Gross Domestic Product decreased in more than two-thirds of OECD and partner countries.

These cuts have a stronger and more devastating impact on the education prospects of those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is the case particularly in the provision of early childhood education, whose importance becomes apparent in the study: the children of poorly educated parents participate less in early years education, and this has lifelong consequences. Although the number of children enrolled in pre-primary education increased by 18 percent between 2005 and 2016, children from more advantaged backgrounds are still more likely to participate, the EAG publication shows.


When it comes to gender stereotyping in education, the data shows that this is still significant, both in the choice of higher education courses, vocational education, and, ultimately, in salary inequalities when women transition to working life.

Read with care

Education International General Secretary David Edwards welcomed the publication. It “is extremely valuable in the provision of thorough data on education,” he said. However, “the OECD’s continuing arguments that there is a trade off between lower class sizes and higher teachers’ salaries is invidious. It would be much more productive if it started arguing strongly for reducing class sizes for students with significant needs, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds”.

You can access the whole report here.

A summary and Education International's comments are available here.