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OECD report highlights Australia's education performance

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Minister for School Education

Peter Garrett

OECD report highlights Australia’s education performance

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Australia is performing only slightly above the OECD average in areas such as student to teacher ratios and secondary school completion rates, according to a new report released today.

School Education Minister Peter Garrett said the OECD’s Education at a Glance report looks at Australia’s expenditure on education, teacher ratios and salary, school completion and early childhood education compared to other countries. The report covers 2009 spending and 2010 data on other areas.

“It finds that although we are doing well in some areas, we still have a lot of work to do to reach our goal of being in the top five performing countries in the world in maths, English and science by 2025,” he said.

“While we increased the amount of money we spent on education in 2009, this was largely because of the investment in the Building the Education Revolution program. Long-term, Australia’s public investment in education is below the OECD average.

“We know we need to do more to lift our education performance including focusing on teacher quality, more power for principals and helping schools improve their results. That’s why the Gillard Government has a National Plan for School Improvement which will help make sure every school is getting the resources and support it needs to do a great job.

“This report should also stand as a stark warning to the Coalition state governments: Australian schools can’t afford further cuts.

“But instead what we’ve seen today in NSW is $1.7 billion ripped from education, which is a terrible blow to school and TAFE students and their families. If we want to improve our performance and make Australian schools among the best in the world we need to be investing, not slashing funds and sacking teachers.”

Education at a Glance found that Australia increased its spending as a proportion of GDP by 14.7 per cent in 2009 and was one of only a handful of countries to increase expenditure by more than 10 per cent. Direct expenditure on schooling was 4.2 per cent of GDP, higher than the OECD average of 4 per cent.

“While our total spend on education increased to 6 per cent of GDP in 2009, this was still below the OECD average of 6.2 per cent,” Mr Garrett said.

“Our early childhood results show that the Gillard Government’s decision to invest record amounts in early childhood education and care was well overdue and we expect the results of our investment to become apparent in future OECD reports.”

Results for Australian school and early childhood education in the report include:

 The Australian student-to-teacher ratio is 15.7 students for every member of teaching staff in primary schools, compared to the OECD average of 15.9.  In 2010, the proportion of Australians aged 25 to 34 who had attained at least upper secondary level education was 85 per cent, compared to the OECD

average of 82 per cent.  Between 2000 and 2010 the proportion of 25 to 64 year old Australians who have attained at least upper secondary education increased from 58 per cent

to 74 per cent.  Australia's expenditure per primary school student was US $8,328, higher than the OECD average in 2009. Per-student expenditure at the secondary

level also remained slightly higher than the OECD average at US $10,137. These figures include both public and private spending.

Mr Garrett said the report confirmed that over the long-term, Australia still spends less public money on education than other comparable countries.

“It is also confirmed that student background is still having a large effect on their results, with students from disadvantaged backgrounds often around two years behind their peers from advantaged backgrounds,” he said.

“This Government has made it clear that all governments need to invest more in our schools so that we can reverse the decline in our results and make sure our disadvantaged students aren’t being left behind.

“Our National Plan for School Improvement includes a new school funding model that will help make sure schools are getting enough money, and that additional funding is tied to concrete reforms that we know can help improve our results.”

For a copy of the OECD report go to:

More information on the National Plan for School Improvement is available at

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