Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Australia 'second last' on education spending

The report found Australia spends less than the OECD average in areas such as pre-primary and upper high school education.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report, which looked at government funding of public education, ranked Australia second last.

The report also singles out Australia for putting more costs onto university students.

Australia is among a handful of countries where less than half the cost of tertiary education now comes from the public purse.

The OECD report shows public spending on all levels of education in Australia totalled 4.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005.

The OECD average is 5 per cent.

Apart from Australia's total education budget lagging behind, the The Australian Education Union (AEU) is concerned by the proportion of government spending that goes to the public sector.

The OECD average is 85 per cent, the report shows that figure is 75 per cent in Australia.

"Well, it is a damning report and it's a blight on Australia," AEU president Angelo Gavrielatos said.

"The report shows that Australia is now ranked second last when compared to other OECD countries when it comes to public expenditure, direct public expenditure on our public institutions, our schools and TAFE colleges."

The report finds Australian students are still performing well, compared to their counterparts in 30 OECD countries.

But Mr Gavrielatos says the report is still more evidence that public education funding should be increased by billions of dollars.

"The Government is on record as saying it will act on evidence-based policy.

"Well, there's no clearer evidence than this OECD report, that shows Australia is ranked second last when it comes to public expenditure on public institutions," he said.

However, the Government could also point to the education outcomes as evidence.

"They certainly could but I would have thought we would continually strive to improve as a nation," Mr Gavrielatos added.

The OECD uses figures from recent years, but not recent enough to reflect on the current Federal Government.

It shows Australia contributed just 68 per cent of spending on early education, well below the OECD average of 80 per cent.

Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard says the findings show just how much the education system was neglected by the Howard government.

"In early childhood education, Australia comes pretty close to the bottom of the class and this report also confirms that we've been under investing in higher education and vocational education and training," she said.

"It's no wonder with a record like this that the Howard government left us with a skills crisis, and left us with a big job to do to get early childhood education up to world standards."

The OECD report also shows that the highest wage for Australian teachers is significantly lower than in most other developed nations, despite teachers here working longer hours and having bigger classes.

Quote: Rudd foreshadows Pacific defence [military] build-up. Mr Rudd says the Government has committed to extending the real growth of the Defence budget by 3 per cent a year until 2018. What about less military and more social services? What is the OECD on military spending rate Australia? Australia ranks at 14th out of 170 OECD countries. Wikipedia


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