Tertiary education
Korea has the highest number of educated young adults among OECD countries. Source: Shutterstock

Korea holds the highest rate of young adults (25-34 year-olds) with tertiary education among all Organization for Economic and Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries.

According to the OECD’s 2019 edition of the Education at a Glance report, nearly all young adults in Korea have an upper secondary qualification, with an above average employment rate for those with a tertiary education.

At least 90 percent of 3-17 year-olds were enrolled in education in 2017, reaching 87 percent among 15-19 year-olds, and falling to 50 percent for 20-24 year-olds. These rates were 3-8 percentage points higher than the OECD averages. 

However, among 25-29 year-olds, the enrolment rate fell to 9 percent, 7 percent below the OECD average.

The report, released on Tuesday (September 10), looks at the structure, finances and performance of education systems in OECD and partner countries.

The OECD said the majority of young people in Korea first enter tertiary education directly after completing upper secondary education. 

“On average, students in Korea enter bachelor’s programmes at the age of 19, and 50 percent of 19-20 year-olds and 46 percent of 21-22 year-olds were enrolled in a bachelor’s programme (the OECD averages are 30 percent and 29 percent respectively),” said the report.

The OECD added that Korea spends more on education than the OECD average at primary and tertiary levels of education; private expenditure is significantly higher than public expenditure at tertiary level; and enrolment rates in early childhood and care are high, with the majority of children enroled in private institutions.

Brazil lags behind tertiary education attainment

The OECD’s study found that Brazil is lagging behind, standing among the countries with the lowest rates of individuals with higher education. 

Approximately only 18 percent of adults (25-64 year olds) in Brazil have attained tertiary education, well below other Latin American countries such as Argentina (36 percent), Chile (25 percent), Colombia (23 percent) and Costa Rica (23 percent). 

“In OECD countries, the average tertiary attainment rate is 39 percent, over twice that of Brazil. Over the past decade, however, there has been a considerable increase in tertiary attainment among the younger generation (25-34 year-olds), from 11 percent in 2008 to 21 percent in 2018,” said the report.

While young women in Brazil are 42 percent more likely to have attained tertiary education than men, they are less likely to be employed. 

Meanwhile, very few Brazilians who graduated from a bachelor’s programme go on to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree. 

“Only 0.8 percent of 25-64 year-olds in Brazil have attained a master’s degree, well below all OECD countries and the OECD average of 13 percent. Only about 0.2 percent have attained a doctorate, just over one-fifth the OECD average of 1.1 percent.

“Over three-quarters of bachelor’s students in Brazil attend private universities, in stark contrast to most OECD countries, where this is the case for less than one-third of students,” said the report.

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