PARIS - In total, 44 million students in OECD countries (18% of all students) were enrolled in private schools in 2021.

Although students from private schools achieved better results in PISA 2022 in many countries, this is mainly because they enrol more students from advantaged socio-economic backgrounds than their public counterparts. The main challenge in many countries today is to increase the social mix in public and private schools, which is why many efforts have been made in this direction over the past decade.


Introduction


Private schools are part of the educational landscape in all OECD countries, coexisting and evolving alongside public schools. They are often the subject of controversy, particularly when their educational performance is compared with that of public schools, with debates over how they are funded (sometimes largely by public authorities), the autonomy they may enjoy, or how they contribute to the goals of inclusion and equity in education.The nature of private schools varies from country to country (see Box 1).

In some countries, most private schools are associated with a particular religion or religious denomination and have historical roots, as is the case in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Other private schools may have emerged more recently to offer parents a wider choice of schools for their children, as in Sweden, or simply to cope with the rapid expansion of education systems, as is the case with pre-primary education in many OECD countries.


Nearly one-fifth of all students attend private schools in OECD countries, from pre-primary to upper secondary education


In total, 44 million students in OECD countries (or 18% of all students) were enrolled in private schools in 2021, from pre-primary to the end of secondary education.

However, this figure masks major differences between countries, depending on the level of education considered. In general, the share of students enrolled in private schools increases with each level from primary onwards. The OECD average rises from 12% at primary level to 15% at lower secondary and 20% in upper secondary education.

At upper secondary level, more than 40% of students are enrolled in private schools in Australia, Belgium, Chile, Korea and the United Kingdom. Another overall trend is that, in most countries, private institutions account for a significantly higher share of enrolment in pre-primary education than for primary and secondary education.

On average, around one-third of children enrolled in pre-primary education are in private schools, although the share ranges from 4% or less in Bulgaria and Czechia to 99% in Ireland and New Zealand (Figure 1).Contrary to the popular belief that private school enrolment is on the rise, the share of students enrolled in private schools has remained largely constant over the last decade.

For instance, at upper secondary level, only two countries saw the share of students enrolled in private schools increase by more than 5 percentage points between 2015 and 2021: Australia, where it rose from 40.5% to 52.7%, and Czechia, where it rose from 14.7% to 20.2%.

 


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