13 Sep 2017

NZers getting smarter, OECD figures show

8:38 am on 13 September 2017

New Zealand's population is becoming better educated and the percentage of women enrolled in science and technology courses is one of the highest in the world, according to OECD figures.

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Kiwis are becoming better educated, the OECD says. Photo: Facebook / University of Otago

The annual Education at a Glance snapshot also shows the financial return to New Zealanders with tertiary qualifications remains low, despite relatively high fees.

The report showed the proportion of 25 to 34-year-olds with no secondary qualifications had halved since 2000, dropping from 31 percent to the OECD average of 16 percent.

It said 37 percent of students enrolled in science, technology, engineering and maths courses in New Zealand in 2015 were women, one of the highest rates in the world. Only India had a higher figure at 38 percent, and the OECD average was 30 percent.

Eight percent of New Zealand tertiary students were enrolled in engineering and manufacturing subjects, nearly half the OECD average of 14 percent, while enrolments in arts and humanities accounted for 12 percent of tertiary enrolments.

More than 40 percent of young New Zealanders were expected to get a tertiary qualification before the age of 30, one of the highest rates among developed countries, the report showed.

Across the OECD, social mobility had improved as measured by the completion of tertiary degrees by graduates whose parents did not have such qualifications.

In New Zealand in 2015, 32 percent of 30 to 44-year-olds without tertiary educated parents had attained a degree or diploma compared to the OECD average of 20 percent.

However, the figure for people with at least one tertiary educated parent was 58 percent.

Across the OECD, people with lower or no qualifications were more likely to be unemployed than those with tertiary education.

The net financial return for a man completing a tertiary education in New Zealand was $US162,800 more than the earnings of someone who had only a secondary education, but below the OECD average of $US252,100.

For a woman the figures were $US145,400 and $US167,400 - figures reached after adjusting for purchasing power.

The report said the net public benefit of tertiary education in terms of, for example, higher tax payments outweighed the costs to the government.

For a woman, the net public benefit was $US42,800 compared to the OECD average of $US83,400. For a man, the benefit was $US65,500 compared to the OECD average of $US154,000.

The government spent nearly five percent of GDP on school and tertiary education in 2014, close to the OECD average. Private spending on education took the figure to more than six percent of GDP, a figure attained by only six other countries including the United Kingdom, Denmark and Korea.

The report said 65 percent of New Zealand two-year-olds and 89 percent of three-year-olds were enrolled in early education in 2015, compared to the OECD averages of 39 percent and 73 percent.

New Zealand had the highest proportion of international students in the OECD in 2015 at 21 percent of all students, and the highest proportion of international enrolments among its bachelor's degree students at about 25 percent.