Ireland worst in OECD on investing in education

Ireland worst in OECD on investing in education

The 'ongoing failure' to invest in our schools will have long-term social and economic consequences both for individuals and our society, according to the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland. File picture

Ireland ranks the lowest out of almost 40 countries in terms of how much of its national wealth it invests back into education, new figures from the OECD show.

The OECD’s ‘Education at a Glance 2021’ published this Thursday, shows Ireland is at the bottom of a list of 36 OECD countries in terms of how much GDP it puts into education.

Ireland invested just over 3% of its GDP from 2018 into education, which breaks down into 2.4% for primary and secondary education, and 0.9% for tertiary education.

The report notes that private sources also play a crucial role in financing tertiary education, accounting on average for around one-third of expenditure on educational institutions.

Expenditure on primary to tertiary educational institutions relative to a country’s GDP varies between 6% or more in Chile, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States.

According to the OECD, many factors influence the relative position of countries on this measure. This includes the relative number of students enrolled, the duration of studies and the effective allocation of funds.

“At the tertiary level, spending may be influenced by the criteria for accessing higher levels of education, the number of students enrolled across sectors and fields of study, as well as the scale of investment in research activities.” 

Before the pandemic, total public expenditure on primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education in Ireland reached 2.3% of GDP in 2018, which was lower than the OECD average of 3.2%.

The “ongoing failure” to invest in our schools will have long-term social and economic consequences both for individuals and our society, according to the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI).

Eamon Dennehy, ASTI president, said: “If we take GDP as a measure of national wealth, it is unacceptable that a rich country like Ireland remains at the bottom of the global rankings.

The pandemic has dramatically underlined how important schools are to children, families and communities. 

“It has also demonstrated that large classes, insufficient staffing, inadequate accommodation and ventilation are undermining the capacity of schools to provide a safe environment for quality education.” 

Recent experiences related to the pandemic have made clear just how many schools and classrooms are unfit for the requirements of modern education, according to the Teachers’ Union of Ireland.

Martin Marjoram, TUI president, said: “It is students from disadvantaged backgrounds who suffer the most from inadequate education budgets, and the ongoing failure to invest sufficiently must be viewed as a continued attack on the most vulnerable in communities around the country.” 

John Boyne, general secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation, said: “The OECD annual report yet again shines a spotlight on a wilful lack of investment and support for our primary education system. We simply must do better.”

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