Education at a Glance 2015
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Education at a Glance 2015

OECD Indicators

Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators is the authoritative source for accurate information on the state of education around the world. It provides data on the output of educational institutions; the impact of learning across countries; the financial and human resources invested in education; access, participation and progression in education; and the learning environment and organisation of schools.

The 2015 edition introduces more detailed analysis of participation in early childhood and tertiary levels of education. The report also examines first generation tertiary-educated adults’ educational and social mobility, labour market outcomes for recent graduates, and participation in employer-sponsored formal and/or non-formal education. Readiness to use information and communication technology for problem solving in teaching and learning is also examined. The publication provides indicators on the impact of skills on employment and earnings, gender differences in education and employment, and teacher and school leader appraisal systems. For the first time, this edition includes highlights of each indicator inside the book. The report covers all 34 OECD countries and a number of partner countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, and for the first time, Costa Rica and Lithuania).

The Excel™ spreadsheets used to create the tables and charts in Education at a Glance are available via the StatLinks provided throughout the publication.

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Indicator B2 What Proportion of National Wealth is Spent on Education? You do not have access to this content

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Indicator B2 shows the expenditure on primary to tertiary educational institutions as a percentage of GDP and examines how the economic crisis has affected spending on education.

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Chapter Highlights

  • In 2012, OECD countries spent an average of 5.3% of their GDP on educational institutions from primary to tertiary education; 11 countries with available data (Canada, Chile, Colombia, Iceland, Israel, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States) spent 6% or more.

  • Between 2000 and 2012, expenditure on primary to tertiary education increased at a faster rate than GDP growth in more than two out of three countries for which data are available. In the other countries, the share of GDP devoted to education decreased by less than 0.5 percentage point.

  • Since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008 and up to 2010, GDP decreased, in real terms, in 20 of 36 countries with available data, while public expenditure on educational institutions fell in only six countries. As a result, public expenditure as a percentage of GDP decreased in five countries during this period. Still, GDP rose, in real terms, in most countries between 2010 and 2012, and public expenditure on educational institutions fell in more than one out of three OECD countries as a result of fiscal-consolidation policies.

Chart B2.1. Expenditure on primary to tertiary education institutions as a percentage of GDP (2012)
From public and private sources, including undistributed programmes

1. Public expenditure only (for Switzerland, in tertiary education only; for Norway, in primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education only).

Countries are ranked in descending order of expenditure from both public and private sources on educational institutions.

Source: OECD. Table B2.3. See Annex 3 for notes (

ContextExpand / Collapse

Countries invest in educational institutions to help foster economic growth, enhance productivity, contribute to personal and social development, and reduce social inequality, among other reasons. The proportion of education expenditure relative to GDP depends on the different preferences of various public and private actors. Nevertheless, expenditure on education largely comes from public budgets and is closely scrutinised by governments. During economic downturns, even core sectors like education can be subject to budget cuts.

The level of expenditure on educational institutions is affected by the size of a country’s school-age population, enrolment rates, level of teachers’ salaries, and the organisation and delivery of instruction. At the primary and lower secondary levels of education (corresponding broadly to the 5-14 year-old population), enrolment rates are close to 100% in OECD countries, and changes in the number of students are closely related to demographic changes. This is not as much the case in upper secondary and tertiary education, because part of the concerned population has left the education system (see Indicator C1).

This indicator presents a measure of expenditure on educational institutions relative to a nation’s wealth. National wealth is estimated based on GDP, and expenditure on education includes spending by governments, enterprises and individual students and their families.

Other findingsExpand / Collapse

  • Primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education accounts for two-thirds of expenditure on primary to tertiary educational institutions, or 3.7% of GDP, on average across OECD countries. New Zealand spends the most among OECD and partner countries, with 5.0% of its GDP devoted to these levels of education, while the Czech Republic, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, the Russian Federation and the Slovak Republic spend less than 3% of their GDP on these levels of education.

  • Tertiary education accounts for more than one-quarter of expenditure on educational institutions, or 1.5% of GDP, on average across OECD countries. Canada, Chile, Korea and the United States spend between 2.3% and 2.8% of their GDP on tertiary institutions.

  • Private expenditure on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP is highest at the tertiary level, on average across OECD countries. This share is highest in Chile, Korea and the United States, where it ranges from 1.4% to 1.5% of GDP.

TrendsExpand / Collapse

Between 2008 and 2010, public investment in primary to tertiary education increased by an average of 5% among OECD countries. However, the growth of public expenditure on educational institutions slowed afterwards, and remained stable between 2010 and 2012, on average across OECD countries. Between 2008 and 2012, the average annual growth rate across OECD countries decreased continuously, from 3% in 2008-09 to 0% in 2011-12.

Over the period 2008-10, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, the Russian Federation and the United States cut (in real terms) public expenditure on educational institutions, from about 1% in the United States to 11% in Hungary and Iceland. Over the period 2010-12, public expenditure continued to decrease in four of these six countries (the exceptions were Iceland and the Russian Federation) and also decreased in seven other countries. Among these 11 countries, the decrease during this period reached 5% or more in Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.

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