Press release - Ireland bottom of global ranking for investment in education

Tuesday 10 September 2019

The OECD report Education at a Glance 2019, published today, ranks Ireland in last place out of 35 countries for investment in second-level education as a percentage of GDP.


In 2016 Ireland invested 1.2% of GDP on second-level education compared to the OECD average of 2% and EU average of 1.9%, according to the report.


Overall, Ireland invested 3.5% of GDP in primary, second and third-level education in 2016 compared to the OECD average of 5%.


Commenting on the report, ASTI President Deirdre Mac Donald said that despite evidence of the negative consequences of inadequate investment in education for individuals and countries, the Irish Government continues to ignore the warnings.


“The OECD has previously stated that in Ireland, investment in education has not kept pace with the increased number of students entering schools. What this means is that there are less resources for more students. At a time of initiative overload, schools and teachers are overstretched. How can the Government talk about having the best education system in Europe by 2026 when we continue to lag so far behind when it comes to investment? To be fit for the future we need to address this funding deficit immediately.”


Education at a Glance 2019 emphasises that the benefits of investment in education go well beyond financial returns for individuals and countries and include better social outcomes such as greater participation in cultural and sports activities. 


High transition to third level

The report shows that Ireland is one of the best performing countries when it comes to enrolment in second-level education; 93% of 15-19 year olds are enrolled in second-level compared to the OECD average of 84%. Transfer to third level is also high in Ireland – 53% of school leavers enter undergraduate degree level education compared to the OECD average of 30%.


Another positive outcome is that Ireland has a higher proportion of young people choosing to take STEM courses at undergraduate level than other countries: 31% chose STEM courses in 2017 compared to the OECD average of 27%.


Teachers’ working hours

In Ireland second-level teachers spend more hours teaching than the OECD and European average number of hours. Students in Ireland also receive more instructional hours per annum than the OECD average. The OECD states that in Ireland “the education system is characterised by longer instruction time and teaching hours”.


The report finds that in Ireland second-level teachers are required to carry out a similar range of non-teaching duties as their international counterparts including yard supervision, administrative duties, class planning, correction work, and liaising with parents.


Recruitment and retention

The report states that countries that are looking to increase the supply of teachers should consider offering more attractive starting wages and better career prospects.