Education at a Glance 2017
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Education at a Glance 2017

OECD Indicators

Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators is the authoritative source for information on the state of education around the world. With more than 125 charts and 145 tables included in the publication and much more data available on the educational database, Education at a Glance 2017 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 2017 edition presents a new focus on fields of study, investigating both trends in enrolment at upper secondary and tertiary level, student mobility, and labour market outcomes of the qualifications obtained in these fields. The publication also introduces for the first time a full chapter dedicated to the Sustainable Development Goals, providing an assessment of where OECD and partner countries stand on their way to meeting the SDG targets. Finally, two new indicators are developed and analysed in the context of participation and progress in education: an indicator on the completion rate of upper secondary students and an indicator on admission processes to higher 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).

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 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.


Chapter Highlights

  • Across OECD countries, total public spending on primary to tertiary education averages 11.3% of total government expenditure, ranging in OECD and partner countries from less than 8% in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and the Russian Federation to at least 16% in Brazil, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa.

  • While the average share of total public expenditure across OECD countries on primary to tertiary education in total government expenditure remained stable (11%) between 2010 and 2014, in 18 OECD and partner countries the share decreased. Others, such as Ireland and Latvia, saw an increase of more than 20% over the four-year period (Figure B4.1).

  • In tertiary education, on average 85% of final public funds (after transfers between levels of government) come from the central government. In primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education, spending is much more decentralised, with 58% of final funds managed by regional and local governments.

Figure B4.1. Change in total public expenditure on education as a share of total government expenditure between 2010 and 2014
Primary to tertiary education (2010 = 100, constant prices)

1. Includes pre-primary education.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the change in total public expenditure on primary to tertiary education as a percentage of total government expenditure.

Source: OECD/UIS/Eurostat (2017), Table B4.2. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (

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Decisions concerning budget allocations to various sectors – including education, healthcare, social security and defence – depend on countries’ priorities and on the options for private provision of these services. Government funding is necessary in situations where the public benefit is high, but where 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 a 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 compares total public spending on education with total government spending across OECD and partner countries. 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.

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  • Most OECD and partner countries with available data (38 out of 43 countries) spend more than twice as much on primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education combined as they do on tertiary education.

  • The proportion of government expenditure devoted to primary to tertiary education decreased between 2005 and 2014 in more than two-thirds of the countries with available data for both years. It remained stable in most others and in a number of countries it increased, most notably in Chile and Korea, where the increase was higher than 2 percentage points.

  • On average across OECD countries, central governments provide 55% of public expenditure’s initial funds for primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education. This share is higher in tertiary education with 87% of the initial funds coming from central government.

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