Ireland languishes at bottom of global rankings for investment in education

Tuesday 11 September 2018

The OECD report Education at a Glance 2018, published today, finds Ireland in joint last place out of 33 countries for investment in education as a percentage of GDP.

In 2015, Ireland invested 3.5% of GDP in education compared to the OECD average of 5%.

“The ASTI is alarmed by the findings contained in Education at a Glance 2018,” said ASTI President Breda Lynch. “The OECD previously warned that Ireland needs to up its game in terms of investment in education. Despite improved economic circumstances, we are languishing at the bottom when investment relative to national wealth is measured. What does this say about the value we place on our children and young people?”  

“Ireland needs a radical shakeup in its education investment plan if the Government hopes to deliver on its goal of having the best education and training system in Europe by 2026,” added the ASTI President.

Education at a Glance 2018 stresses the benefits of investment in education for individuals and countries. Adults who have completed second-level education are more likely to be in employment, achieve better pay, and experience a range of other positive social and personal outcomes.

Investment in education also results in significant public benefits, including greater societal wellbeing, social cohesion and equity, as well as higher tax returns from tertiary-educated adults who earn higher incomes. Ireland is specifically mentioned in the report as one of three countries where the public returns on investment in education are “very large”. Furthermore, the report states that: “It is crucial for policy makers to understand the economic incentives to invest in education.”

High level of environmental awareness

This year’s Education at a Glance focuses on awareness of environmental issues amongst 15 year olds. Based on scores from the OECD’s PISA 2015 study, the report finds that Irish 15-year olds scored higher than the OECD average across all environmental awareness areas of science proficiency.

Another positive outcome is that young people who are foreign-born do better in Ireland than those who are foreign-born living in other countries. For example, Ireland has one of the highest levels of tertiary-educated foreign-born adults in the world.

Teachers’ working hours

Once again, Education at a Glance provides the evidence that Irish teachers spend more time in the classroom than many of their OECD counterparts.

In Ireland second-level teachers spend 735 hours per annum teaching their students compared to the OECD average of 657 hours and EU average of 635 hours. As a result, students in Ireland have more instruction time; 924 hours at lower second-level compared to the OECD average of 913 hours and EU average of 894 hours.

In addition to classroom teaching time, recent RED C research, commissioned by the ASTI, found that second-level teachers spend more than 20 hours per week on non-teaching work.