An absolutely fascinating and in depth report has just been released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), entitled ‘Education at a Glance 2008.’  The report examines almost every conceivable element of the education system in 30 developed countries on a nation-by-nation basis, and it provides analysis of the relationship between levels of education attained and average adult career achievements.

The results of the survey are fascinating and certainly give expats plenty of food for thought if they’re moving abroad and thinking about educating their children locally.  And in the case of Italy, for those who’re planning on moving to live and work there we can give some insight into the relationship between education, university and jobs in Italy as well as the relationship between educational achievements and average salaries.

In a review of Italy’s findings as detailed in the ‘Education at a Glance 2008’ report, the ‘Wanted in Rome’ website ranks the country as having achieved a C- grade overall in the OECD survey.  However we feel that this grade is a little harsh!  For any expatriate living in Italy with their children, the good news is that up to the age at which young students would enter tertiary education, Italy does very well indeed.  For example, the average annual education spend per child is above the OCED average in Italy, and there is a sharp increase in the numbers of pupils with upper secondary qualifications in Italy who are now aged between 25 and 34 compared to the 55 to 64 year old bracket.

Clearly vast improvements have been made in Italy already, but the report does highlight some gaping holes in the education standards in the nation.  Until tertiary level education all is going very well for Italy – which is good news for parents of young expat children.  But once a young student wants to attend college or university, everything goes a little awry.  For a start Italy has the highest rate of student drop outs of any other nation included in the study!  In fact, less than half of those who sign up for a college course or university degree go on to complete their studies, and only 39% actually graduate.

Compared to the OECD norm, only 17% of 25 to 33 year olds have a tertiary level of education; the OECD average per nation is 33%…however, it isn’t all bad news as this is actually an improvement for Italy!  Since it became possible to condense degrees into 3-year courses, graduation rates have actually doubled.  Possibly part of the issue comes down to funding because there is a vast discrepancy between the international average spend per student and that which is spent on students in Italy.

Parents living in Italy and educating their children there may well prefer to have them educated in universities overseas.  Whilst the cost of doing so may be high, the good news is that those who go on to graduate and return to Italy to work stand an incredibly high chance of securing very well paying jobs according to the findings of the OECD report.  Graduates who speak Italian and who work in Italy earn on average a whopping 65% more than their non-graduate peers – and this discrepancy has grown by over a quarter since 1998 which just goes to show that the problem for employers in Italy is getting worse.  I.e., they cannot find enough educated individuals to take up the demanding positions available.  This is really fantastic news for anyone with a degree and a high level of educational achievement who is thinking about moving to live and work in Italy, although to gain the best positions one does have to be fluent in Italian of course!

Finally, we don’t think that Italy fares too badly at all in the OECD report up to tertiary level education, so any expats with children contemplating a move to Italy shouldn’t have too many qualms about entering their children into the Italian school system.  The only thing to keep in mind is a potential requirement to fund a child’s continued learning at college or university level overseas…but if this can be budgeted and saved for in advance, this should take the sting out of the tail when the time comes.  And because the child in question could well then return to Italy to work and earn up to 65% more than their peers, surely they’ll be able to repay the favour sooner rather than later!