Education spending

Public spending on education reflects society’s investment in children to equip them with fundamental social and economic skills needed to be self-sufficient in their lives. Investing in education reduces poverty and boosts economic growth through human capital development, and is most efficient, in terms of long-term costs and benefits to society, and effective, in terms of human capital development, when investment starts during the early years and continues throughout childhood.

Public spending on education is around 4% of GDP on average across the Asia/Pacific and the OECD (Figure 3.12). However, cross-national variation is considerable. In 2020, public investment in education amounted to 8% of GDP in Tonga, but less than 2% of GDP in Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea.

Public spending on education as a percentage of GDP can be higher in richer countries than in poorer countries but this is not necessarily so (Figure 3.13). For example, public spending on education as a percentage of GDP is similar in Australia, Georgia, Korea, Mongolia, Samoa and Uzbekistan, at very different levels of GDP per capita (Chapter 2). These differences can be explained by a range of factors, such as the role of private financing of education, which in Korea is among the highest in OECD countries, the level of wages of educators, costs of education material, and also population structures (Chapter 2). For example, the proportion of children (0-19) in the populations of Mongolia and Samoa (38% and 47% respectively) is much higher than in Australia (25%) or Korea (17%).

When considering education spending per student the picture is different. Public spending on education per primary student is higher in richer countries (Figure 3.14) in the OECD on average it is more than twice as high as on average across the Asia/Pacific region. Public investment in education per student in Nepal is comparatively low, but still higher than in Cambodia (KHM) where GDP is higher than in Nepal (Chapter 2).


[1] OECD (2021), Education at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[2] United Nations (2019), World Population Prospects - 2019 Revision,

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2022

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at