OECD reports on declining education spending worldwide

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) launched its annual Education at a Glance 2013 report today that analyses education systems of 34 OECD member countries, including the 21 EU Member States, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. The report offers a glimpse into how education systems have fared during the first years of the global economic crisis, particularly with regard to education spending. It also includes new indicators on the relationship between education levels and employment.

 

Education as the best protection against unemployment

This years’ Education at a Glance report comes at a time when countries are grappling with high levels of youth unemployment. In 2011, the average proportion of 15-29 year-olds neither in employment nor in education or training across OECD countries was 16% as compared to 20% among 25-29 year-olds. Particularly in Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain, growing proportion of students are neither in education nor in employment.

 

A major conclusion of the OECD is that educational attainment has a major impact on employability. Across OECD countries, only 4.8% of people with tertiary degrees were unemployed in 2011 as compared to 12.6% of people without an upper secondary education. Presenting the report in Brussels, Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director for Education and Skills at the OECD, stated that “the crisis dramatically amplifies the value of a good education”, as evidenced by a lower growth in unemployment for those highly educated, as compared to people with low education degrees. Moreover, it was argued that the socio-economic benefits of a highly qualified population should be a particularly strong reason for governments to invest in vocational and higher education. In particular, Education at a Glance 2013 emphasises the critical role of vocational education and training programmes in tackling youth unemployment.

 

Decline in spending on public education

The report finds that expenditure on education per student is decreasing in most EU countries. The report data includes figures up to 2010 on education investments, and reveals a decline in public spending on education institutions in one-third of OECD countries, notably Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Hungary, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. It is important to consider that despite a lack of figures for recent years, this decline is likely to have increased between 2010 and 2013, particularly in the context of the economic crisis.

 

Cuts in teachers’ salaries

In order for countries to be able to provide quality education, they need to invest in quality teachers. Adequate and equitable remuneration is a key factor in attracting well-qualified teachers to and retaining teachers in the profession. Education at a Glance 2013 reports that the financial and economic crisis that began at the end of 2008 has significantly impacted on the salaries of public sector workers, including teachers, as governments have sought to reduce public spending. Cuts in teachers’ salaries have taken place in a growing number of countries, particularly in Europe (Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland and Spain). On average across OECD countries with available data, teachers’ salaries have decreased, for the first time since 2000, by around 2% at all levels of education between 2009 and 2011.

 

Increased household spending on education

Education at a Glance 2013 reports that higher education institutions obtain on average 32% of funds from private sources. Individual households are increasingly sharing the cost of education, mainly through tuition fees, and account for most of the private expenditure on higher education. This raises serious concerns about the equity of access to education, particularly where tuition fees are on the rise across OECD countries.

 

The 2013 Education at a Glance Report can be accessed online at: http://www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm

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