New Zealand continues to have high levels of participation in tertiary education but graduates can expect to earn far less than those in other developed countries, according to the latest OECD report.
The Education at a Glance report, released yesterday, shows 39 per cent of New Zealanders aged 25-64 and 46 per cent of those aged 25-34 hold a university degree.
That was higher than the OECD averages of 32 per cent and 39 per cent respectively, putting New Zealand within the top 10 of OECD countries for tertiary education.
But graduates can expect to get less in return for their efforts if they stay in New Zealand.
In 2011, tertiary educated workers in New Zealand could expect to earn 18 per cent more than workers with upper-secondary education.
That was well below the OECD average of 57 per cent greater earnings.
More women than men were tertiary educated, with 37 per cent of women aged 55-64 attaining a tertiary qualification - 8 percentage points higher than the 29 per cent of men.
The difference was even larger for younger New Zealanders, with 41 per cent of men attaining a tertiary qualification compared with 51 per cent of women.
The report also showed the number of students aged 15-19 staying in education has grown from 74 per cent in 2008 to 81 per cent in 2011.
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said it was encouraging to see training initiatives for young people were seeing more and more teenagers choosing to stay in education.
"Equipping our students with a high level of knowledge, skills and qualifications means they will be best placed to contribute to our society through better jobs and higher wages."
The report also found teachers' salaries were slightly above the OECD average and it took less time to reach the top pay bracket, although the highest earnings were proportionally lower.
It also found their salaries, when compared with those of other tertiary educated people aged 25-64, were more competitive than other OECD countries.
Teachers earned slightly more than other workers of a similar age and education level, compared with the average across OECD countries, which showed teachers earned up to 18 per cent less.
The report also showed New Zealand:
• Invested 7.3 per cent of its GDP in education, the seventh highest in the OECD;
• Pumped 20 per cent of all public funding into education, which was the second highest in the OECD;
• Was in the top third for participation in early childhood education, with 95 per cent of four-year-olds enrolled in 2011.
Education Minister Hekia Parata said the findings were encouraging and supported the work being done within New Zealand's education system,
"Quality early learning is about creating the best start in life for as many children as possible, as soon as possible, and I am delighted these figures from the OECD reflect this," she said.
"While the OECD report's results are encouraging, there is plenty of work to do. It's important that we continue to improve and ensure that all New Zealand children and young people are receiving the best education possible."