In September, the PISA 2018 report highlighted a glaring equity gap, both in Australian schools and across the OECD.
According to the study of about 600,000 students from around the world, Australia ranked ninth-worst of 77 countries for the equitable allocation of resources between disadvantaged and advantaged schools, with only Colombia, Panama, Peru, Cyprus, Philippines, Mexico. Brazil and Thailand ranking lower.
The report has sparked renewed discussion as to whether Australia is spending enough on its schoolchildren.
In a finding likely to fuel this debate, a new study has found that Australia spends $15,306 per child in mandatory education, an increase of $2,105 per student since 2010.
According to the analysis of OECD and 25 other government and data body reports conducted by Teaching Abroad Direct, Australia now provides the 14th largest budget per student in the world.
Luxembourg, Austria, Norway were found to be the three biggest investors per pupil, according to the latest figures. However, China has increased year-on-year spending the most per student, increasing 21% per year on average
Andrew Lynch, Director at Teaching Abroad Direct, said investing in education “is a must for any economy”.
“This helps to provide the next generation with skills to make them attractive in the future jobs market while providing jobs to teachers and various support staff,” he said.
“As the results of our study show, investment in education globally is increasing, with many nations adjusting their spend by between 3% - 4%.
However, despite these increases, there are still challenges being faced by schools and teachers, says Lynch.
“Just five nations pay teachers above the local average ‘cost of living’. So, we would implore policymakers and public spending advisers to consider increasing their education spending, where possible.”
“It’s also important for all in education to have a better global understanding of the changing shape of education around the world and the different levels of financial support teachers have to deal with.”
However, the Australian Education Union says OECD data shows Australia’s investment in public education remains “well below average”.
Australia is ranked only 19th out of 37 countries in terms of average funding per public school student. In terms of education spending as a proportion of total government spending, Australia ranks below countries such as Chile, South Africa and Mexico.
“The Federal Government has signed bilateral school funding agreements with the states and territories which lock in resourcing inequality for years to come,” AEU federal president, Correna Haythorpe, told The Educator.
“Ninety-nine per cent of public schools will remain below the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) by 2023, while the vast majority of private schools will be above the SRS”.
Haythorpe said public school teachers in Australia are being asked to do more while the resources that governments provide are “deeply inadequate” for the needs of teachers and students.
“Additional funding is vitally important for schools to ensure that teachers and education support personnel have the resources that they need to cater for every child. It also provides systemic support to alleviate escalating workloads, provide smaller class sizes and specialist teaching and learning for those students who need extra help”.
Teaching Abroad Direct also created the Teaching Salary Index, which researches the average teaching salary in the top 100 developed economies and benchmarks that as a percentage of gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity, or GDP (PPP).
Out of 20 countries with the highest teacher salaries compared to the costs of living, Australia ranks 13th, paying its teachers an average of $47,564, which is 9% (or $4,798) below GDP.
“Based on the results of our study it is not really a surprise to have seen so many teachers’ strikes throughout the past couple of years,” Lynch said.
“From the recent State and regional strikes in the US and Canada to strikes across Europe and elsewhere, teachers are crying out for their pay to reflect the amazing work they do and match their costs of living.”
Lynch said that as costs continue to rise across the globe and teachers’ budgets get cut, there is a real need for governments to start listening to teachers.
“This is in the hope of decreasing the levels of teacher turnover and providing children with the best opportunities to succeed in their education and after their school years.”