Better Results Need Higher Spending

A Look at Worldwide Education Investments

One of most painful stories to emerge during the pandemic was the demise of a 14-year-old Dalit girl from Valanchery, Kerala who reportedly died by suicide because she didn’t have the facilities to attend online classes.1

Even as the pandemic rages on, so does the distress of financially-stretched students across the country. The shift to online classes and education brought on by the coronavirus crisis has left behind the poor and the marginalised, raising serious questions on the strength of our education system.

Across the globe several nations with low levels of expenditure per student may still be investing relatively large amounts as a share of per capita GDP. Most expenditure in primary, secondary and post-secondary (non-tertiary) education is spent on core education services (teaching costs and other expenditure related to education), with the largest share going towards staff compensation.

Here we take a look at how several countries worldwide are scoring on education investments.

  • According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s latest report, Luxembourg, United States, Norway, Austria and Sweden spend the highest (a combination of public expenditure on all educational institutions, private expenditure on all educational institutions and public expenditure on public institutions) on educational institutions per full-time equivalent student.
  • Total public spending on primary to tertiary education as a percentage of total government expenditure averages 11% across OECD countries, ranging from around 7% to around 17%.
  • Public funding dominates non-tertiary education (primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary) in all countries while the upper secondary education, vocational and general programmes rely more on private funding (about 13% across OECD countries).
  • In 2017, on average across OECD countries, 83% of the funding for primary to tertiary educational institutions came directly from public sources and 16% from private sources, and the remaining 1% from international sources.
  • In Norway and Sweden, educational funding of primary institutions is fully public, while one-third of the expenditure in Australia, Chile, Colombia, Japan, Korea and the United Kingdom, come from private sources.
  • In the Slovak Republic, tuition fees for Bachelor’s or equivalent programmes are around USD 2100 in independent private institutions, while public institutions do not charge any tuition fees.
  • In Norway, the annual average tuition fees for Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees combined are around USD 5800 in independent private institutions, while there are no tuition fees in public institutions.
  • In Australia, the annual average tuition fees in public institutions for doctoral programmes (less than USD 300) are about 15 times lower than for bachelor’s programmes (about USD 5000). In fact, very few national doctoral students are charged any fees in Australia (less than 5% of doctoral students are in public institutions).
  • Tuition fees are about four times higher in independent private institutions than in public institutions in Spain, about three times higher in Italy, and about twice as high in Israel and Switzerland.
  • In Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, at least 80% of national students receive public financial support in the form of student loans, scholarships or grants, as opposed to less than 20% in Austria, the French Community of Belgium, Portugal and Switzerland.

References :-

  1. (1) Based on trends identified from OECD’s The Education at a Glance 2020,
  2. (2) The report features data on education collected by the OECD Indicators of Education Systems Programme (INES) or the UNESCO Institute of Statistics from: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia , Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States.

( Endnotes )

  • (1) Express News Service (2020, June 2) Lacking Smartphone to attend online classes, Class 9 girls sets herself ablaze in Kerala. The New Indian Express. Retrieved November 10, 2020 from


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July September 2020