Falling GDP spend on education magnified in new OECD figures

New figures released this month in a snapshot of education jurisdictions around the world underline the grim extent of the Morrison Government’s cuts to public school funding.

The report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed that total expenditure on schools and nontertiary post-secondary education in Australia has fallen from 10.4 per cent of total government expenditure in 2010, to 8.9 per cent in 2016.

The OECD’s Education at a Glance 2019 report shows that average total expenditure on schools and nontertiary post-secondary education per student increased by 5 per cent in 2016 compared with 2010.

However, in 2016 Australia spent significantly less — just 83.9 per cent — of what it did in 2010 on school and non-tertiary education in terms of gross domestic product (GDP).

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the report reflected the long history of Liberal-National Government cuts to public school funding.

“The Morrison Government should hang its head in shame at where Australia stands in these school funding figures,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan may claim his government is providing record school funding, but these OECD numbers do not lie. We need urgent action from the Commonwealth to reverse these funding cuts and give Australia’s 2.5 million public school children a fair go.”

The OECD figures say:

  • Australia is 10th in the OECD overall for GDP expenditure at the primary school level, but just 17th of the 35 countries that provided data at the secondary school level
  • At the secondary school level, 4.2 per cent of total government expenditure in Australia is spent on education, below the OECD average of 4.4 per cent
  • Australian public expenditure on schools and non-university education is only 3.18 per cent of GDP, barely scraping in above the all OECD average of 3.11 per cent of GDP
  • Australia, Estonia, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia and Spain were the only countries that did not spend more in 2016 than they did in 2010
  • Australia spends less than 2 per cent of GDP on secondary education, again barely reaching the OECD average.

“Under the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments, we have seen a relentless drive to cut funding and thus educational opportunity to public schools,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“What is most concerning is that these figures are from 2016. Since then we have seen the Turnbull government cut $1.9 billion in funding from public schools in 2018 and 2019.

As well, the Morrison Government has signed funding deals with the states and territories that mean 99 per cent of public schools will be funded under the Schooling Resource Standard by 2023.



As the OECD data shows, Australian public school teachers are among the

best and hardest-working teachers in the world and deserve a salary commensurate

with their skills and knowledge.

However, the OECD snapshot revealed salary scales and career trajectories

for Australian teachers are significantly flatter and much more limited

than for many of their OECD colleagues.

  • Average teaching salaries for countries at the top of the OECD scale are

    67 per cent higher than average starting salaries. In Greece, Hungary,

    Israel, Italy, Korea and Spain, lower secondary school teachers continually

    progress to reach the top of the salary scale after 35 years of service.

  • By contrast, the Australian salary scale is much more limited and lower

    secondary teachers in Australia reach the highest step on the salary scale

    after only six to seven years of experience.

  • In Australia, the top of the salary scale is still only 1.48 times the starting

    salary, whereas for all OECD countries this figure is 1.85 times the starting


  • Australian upper secondary school teachers spend an average of 816

    hours per year teaching, 22 per cent more time than the OECD average of

    667 hours per year.