Visualize the Return on Education

Visualize the Return on Education


The importance of education is little disputed, but really understanding the complex interplay between education and society is exceedingly difficult. As part of their commitment to promoting policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world, the OECD publishes a wide range of statistics and indicators on educational systems and learning outcomes. By looking at data across the 34 OECD countries, as well as selected non-member countries, comparative analysis can reveal trends and insights crucial to shaping policy and improving well-being through education.

One critical topic included in the OECD’s data is the economic return on education, both for the individual and the society at large. How much does it cost a country to educate a citizen with a higher degree? What are the various returns on that investment? The OECD has developed a sophisticated set of indicators for measuring these costs and returns, refined and updated in the just-released Education at a Glance 2012 report. Broken down by gender, public/private value, and secondary/tertiary education level, and including all 34 OECD countries, this data set offers a comprehensive view of the economic return on education.

Your challenge is to visualize the economic costs and returns on education. Your design should encourage comparison across the countries, and should reveal the individual statistics that go into these indicators. Additional education or economic data from the Education at a Glance or other OECD publications may also be included.

Data and Resources

Primary data set:

The downloadable data set includes six tables taken from the Education at a Glance report. Each table has the same set of columns (see list below), and is for a different combination of public/private value, secondary/tertiary degree, and men/women. The report includes a detailed description and analysis of the indicators.

Additional data:

Other data from the Education at a Glance or recent OECD publications may be used in this challenge.


EXTENDED Deadline: THURSDAY, November 8, 2012, 11:59 pm EDT
The winner will be announced on January 9. 


The winning designer will be invited to attend the OECD Forum in Paris in May 2013. The Forum is a high-level event with world leaders, government ministers, CEOs, heads of NGOs and more discussing the most pressing issues on the international agenda. Travel and accomodations provided by OECD. Please note that this prize can only go to one recipient, though team entries are permitted.

The winner will also receive a $2500 prize courtesy of GE. 


Simon Rogers, The Guardian
Anthony Gooch, Director of Public Affairs and Communications, OECD
Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director for Education, OECD
Representatives from Visualizing and GE


Visualizations will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Understanding (10 Points): How effectively does the visualization communicate? How well does it help you make sense of this issue?
  • Originality (5 Points): Are the approach and design innovative?
  • Style (5 Points): Is the visualization aesthetically compelling?
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