Written by: Peter Goss, School Education Program Director, Grattan Institute
Education news in Australia last week was dominated by Australia’s worst ever showing in the OECD’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests. The mathematical literacy of our students has fallen to the OECD average. It’s not good enough for a rich country like Australia.
Improving outcomes will need good policy, steady support for schools, and consistent hard work.
Economically illiterate arguments from our leaders don’t help. When the PISA results came out, federal education minister Dan Tehan said:
Our government is providing record funding of $310.3 billion to schools. Money is not the issue because Estonia was the top-performing country in reading and science and they spend half as much money per student as Australia.
In fact, Estonia spends virtually the same per student as Australia, once wage differences are taken into account.
It’s not ‘half as much money per student’
Estonia’s performance in PISA 2018 was impressive. Although they weren’t “the top performing country”, they were one of them and did significantly better than Australia. But what about their funding?
According to the OECD’s Education at a Glance 2019 report, Estonia spends the equivalent of US$6,900 per student per year for both primary and secondary students, while Australia spends US$10,000 per primary student and US$11,650 per secondary student.