On the map National spend on education - Government Defined Priorities

26th March 2010 at 00:00

Economic terms such as GDP (gross domestic product) have been in the news a lot recently. Put simply, GDP measures whether a country is getting wealthier or not. In a recession, we can all become collectively worse off, even if some individuals fare better than others. How governments spend their part of GDP is an indication of their priorities.

International bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) track spending across a range of national economies. Inevitably, such research takes time to collate, and current data largely reflects spending on education before the recession hit national economies.

More recent figures, from the OECD's Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis), show that the proportion a country spends on education is not necessarily a reflection of its commitment to developing teachers.

The percentage of GDP South Korea invests in education, for example, appears low in comparison with other countries at 4.7 per cent, but teachers report attending an average of 30 days' professional development. In Denmark, which has one of the highest spends on education, average CPD days were just under 10.

The UK does not take part in the Talis survey, although every teacher in England is required to attend the five statutory days' training introduced by the then education secretary Kenneth Baker in the 1980s.

Across most OECD countries expenditure on education fell between 1995 and 2006, although the UK was an exception with the largest recorded increase at 1.1 per cent. This reflects the expansion of higher education and provision for under-fives during this period and the substantial investment in schools post-2000. However, our spending at the end of the period was still little better than the overall OECD average.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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