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What Countries Spend the Most and Least % of Public Expenditure on Education?

14 APR 2015
Career Path : Education News


Forbes recently released a study which calculated the percentage of public expenditure that each country in the world uses towards education. At the top of the list was New Zealand. At the bottom of the list was Italy. While New Zealand puts 21.6% of its public expenditure towards education, Italy only puts forth 8.6%.

Considering this huge difference, let’s take a closer look at both New Zealand and Italy, to see what it is about each system that constitutes these differences in education spending.

In New Zealand, all state-run schools are publicly funded, with lower-income areas receiving more funding than higher-income schools. In the 1990s, New Zealand’s education system took a hit after its schools were ranked extremely low on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. This prompted the government to issue more funding for math and science education in elementary schools. Even further, the education standard for the Maori population of New Zealand was ranked below international averages—in fact, the majority of Maori students were calculated to be four years behind the rest of the student population in terms of learning skills and achievement.

Just recently, NZ Prime Minister John Key announced that $244 million would be provided for the construction of seven new schools in the country, with three of these schools dedicated to teaching Maori children. These recent attempts to move New Zealand up in global rankings may be a reason why so much of the country’s expenditure is now geared towards education.

Italy’s oldest university, the University of Bologna, was built in 1088. The first European-style school in New Zealand was built in 1815. This example alone illustrate how much more establish Italy’s education system is. In 2013, the OECD ranked Italy’s education system 21st in the world, above average and also above the U.S. –although Italy does see a large gap in performance between students in the north and the south (with the south generally performing poorer). While Italy’s education system seems to be fairly consistent, there is one factor that is determining why the country spends so little on education today: an aging population.

While 21% of Italy’s population are considered senior citizens, the number of senior citizens in New Zealand stands at around 14% of the population. Despite the fact that both countries are aging, Italy is aging at a much quicker pace and on a larger scale (as they have a much larger population). While this is not the only reason that these two countries spend different amounts on education, it is certainly a major factor.

What other factors would make a country increase or decrease their spending on education? Do you think Canada’s education funding cuts are due in part to an ageing population?

Source: Forbes