Starting young

OECD Observer

Lifelong learning has to start at a young age and so it does in many OECD countries, with universal enrolment (more than 90%) at five or six years of age in the majority of OECD members. And in some countries virtually all three to four-year- olds are already enrolled in pre-primary or primary programmes.

There is a wide gap across countries in this age range, however, with less than 15% of three-year-olds in school in Canada, Korea, Turkey and Switzerland, while more than 75% of children in France, the Flemish Community of Belgium and Iceland are already in full-time education. In France parents are encouraged to enrol their children at age three, with a guaranteed free place in a local school.

Once they are in school, pupils are in for a long haul. Children in most OECD countries can expect to spend at least 15 years in education on average, and in a third of OECD countries the time span is more than 17 years – and that is initial full- time studies, without taking into account any further studies or training later in life. Adults in almost all OECD countries spend the equivalent of just over a year in full-time continuing education and training, although this may take the form of part-time or short courses spread out over several years.

Full details of the education profiles of OECD countries are available in Education at a Glance, OECD, 2000.

Education statistics online at education/ei/. 

©OECD Observer No 225, March 2001 

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