Do states spend enough on education? The members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) finance educational institutions on average with just under five percent of their gross domestic product (GDP), as the organization announced in its report “Education at a Glance 2020”. However, the gap between the member states is very large.
The OECD divided government education expenditure into two main blocks: primary level (elementary school) and secondary level (elementary school, middle education, upper secondary level / vocational schools / further education schools) and tertiary education (universities, technical schools). Schools accounted for the majority, 3.5 percent of GDP (71 percent of total expenditure on education). 1.4 percent of GDP (29 percent) was left for universities.
Education spending in the OECD
“Funds from private sources play a crucial role in financing tertiary education,” explained the OECD. “After all, after transfer payments from the public to the private sector, around a third of the expenditure on educational institutions is covered on average.” In schools, the share of educational expenditure from private sources falls to a tenth.
The last current figures were available to the OECD for 2017. There were no data for Switzerland, Greece and Costa Rica.
These OECD countries spend the most on education:
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# 10 Belgium
According to the OECD, Belgium financed educational institutions with 5.7 percent of its GDP in 2017. It was well above the OECD average of 4.9 percent. Belgium, like all countries on this list, spent most of its education expenditure on primary / secondary education. It accounted for 4.2 percent of GDP. 1.5 percent benefited the tertiary education sector.
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# 9 Iceland
Iceland came ninth in the OECD with an education spending of 5.8 percent of GDP. 4.5 percent of GDP was used for the non-tertiary sector.
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# 8 Canada
Canada spends a comparatively large amount of money on its universities. They accounted for 2.3 percent of GDP. It was 3.6 percent for primary and secondary education.
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# 7 Australia
Australia ranked seventh in 2017 with 6.0 percent of GDP. Two thirds was spent on education in schools.
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# 6 USA
The US spent around 6.1 percent of GDP on education in 2017. That meant sixth place in the OECD. 2.5 percent for tertiary education was one of the highest values in the top 10.
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# 5 Israel
Israel came in fifth with 6.2 percent. 4.7 percent of GDP was invested in schools.
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# 2 Chile
Three countries shared second place in the OECD ranking, each with 6.3 percent of GDP. Chile came to 2.7 percent for the higher education sector. That was the highest value in the top 10.
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# 2 Great Britain
The UK stuck to the popular two-thirds / one-third split in spending on education. 4.3 percent of GDP was used to finance schools. 2.0 percent went to the universities.
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# 2 New Zealand
New Zealand spent the most money on schools out of the runners-up: 4.6 percent of GDP. That left 1.7 percent for the universities.
# 1 Norway
Of all OECD countries, Norway has by far spent the most on education. It came to a budget of 6.6 percent of GDP in 2017. 4.7 percent of GDP for primary and secondary education was the highest value in the top 10, just ahead of New Zealand. Norway, on the other hand, was not at the top for universities with 1.9 percent of GDP. In terms of spending on education, Luxembourg (3.2 percent) and Lithuania (3.4 percent) brought up the rear. Germany came in the lower midfield with 4.2 percent.