Education at a Glance 2016
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Education at a Glance 2016

OECD Indicators

Education at a Glance is the authoritative source for information on the state of education around the world. It provides key information 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 2016 edition introduces a new indicator on the completion rate of tertiary students and another one on school leaders. It provides more trend data and analysis on diverse topics, such as: teachers’ salaries; graduation rates; expenditure on education; enrolment rates; young adults who are neither employed nor in education or training; class size; and teaching hours. The publication examines gender imbalance in education and the profile of students who attend, and graduate from, vocational education.

The report covers all 35 OECD countries and a number of partner countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa).

This edition includes more than 125 figures and 145 tables. The Excel™ spreadsheets used to create them are available via the StatLinks provided throughout the publication. More data is available in the OECD Education Statistics database.

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Indicator B4 What is the Total Public Spending on Education? You do not have access to this content

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Indicator B4 shows the proportion of total public expenditure,the proportion of GDP devoted to primary to tertiary education and the share of funding by level of government.

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Chapter Highlights

  • Primary to tertiary education accounts for 11.3% of total public spending on average across OECD countries, ranging from less than 8% in Hungary, Italy, Latvia and Slovenia to more than 16% in Brazil, Mexico and New Zealand.

  • The proportion of public expenditure devoted to primary to tertiary education decreased between 2005 and 2013 in more than two-thirds of the countries with available data for both years. It remained stable for most others, except, most notably, in Brazil and Israel, where it increased by 1 percentage point or more.

  • In tertiary education, on average, 85% of final public funds come from the central government. In primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education, spending is much more decentralised, and 59% of final funds are managed by regional and local governments.

Figure B4.1. Total public expenditure on education as a percentage of total public expenditure (2005, 2008 and 2013)

Note: Public expenditure figures presented here exclude undistributed programmes.

Countries are ranked in descending order of public expenditure on education at all levels of education as a percentage of total public expenditure in 2013.

Source: OECD. Table B4.2. See Annex 3 for notes (

ContextExpand / Collapse

Decisions concerning budget allocations to various sectors, including education, health care, social security and defence, depend on countries’ priorities and on the possibility of private provision of those services. Government funding is necessary in situations where the public benefit is high, but private costs are greater than private benefits.

In the years following the economic crisis, various OECD countries adopted austerity measures, which led to sharp budget cuts, including in the education sector. As a result, expenditure per student decreased after the crisis in many countries (see Indicator B1). Although cuts can be the result of better allocation of government funds, gains in efficiency and economic dynamism, they can also affect the quality of government-provided education, particularly at a time when investment in education is important to resume economic growth. For example, during the crisis, there may be an increasing demand to provide education and training for young and unemployed people who find it harder to compete in a more restricted labour market.

This indicator presents total public spending on education relative to total public spending by countries and relative to their gross domestic product (GDP) (to take into account the relative size of public budgets). In addition, it includes data on the different sources of public funding invested in education (central, regional and local governments) and on the transfers of funds between these levels of government.

Other findingsExpand / Collapse

  • Public expenditure on education as a percentage of total public expenditure on all services decreased by 0.6 percentage points, on average, across OECD countries between 2005 and 2013.

  • Most OECD and partner countries (32 out of 36 countries with available data) spend more than twice as much on primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education combined as on tertiary education.

  • At the primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary levels of education, 4 of 37 countries with available data have 90% or more of initial funds coming from the central government. But in tertiary education, only 10 countries have less than 90% of initial funds coming from the central government.

TrendsExpand / Collapse

Between 2005 and 2013, the percentage of total public expenditure devoted to primary to tertiary education decreased in 19 of the 27 countries with available data. The decrease was especially substantial (3 percentage points or more) in Mexico and Slovenia. However, the share increased by more than 1 percentage point in Brazil and Israel (Table B4.2).

There is no clear pattern regarding public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP between 2005 and 2013, as it remained largely stable on average across the OECD. In 10 of the 28 countries with available data there was an increase in the share of public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP between 2005 and 2008, which was the case in 18 countries between 2008 and 2013.

Between 2008 and 2013, in 18 of the 26 countries with available data, public expenditure on education increased, while in 25 of the 34 countries with available data, total public expenditure was higher in 2008 than in 2013. On average, the increase in public expenditure on education was 5%, compared to an increase of 7% in total public expenditure for all services. This results in an overall decline of 2% in the total public expenditure on education as a percentage of total public expenditure (Table B4.2).

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