Private education spending in Australia soars ahead of other countries

Boys from a private high school. Australia is among the highest contributors to education spending in the world, at about 6% of gross domestic product. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP

The proportion of public money being spent on private schooling in Australia is higher than in any other advanced economy and has increased significantly over the last decade, a new report reveals.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development released on Tuesday night its annual education at a glance report, a major compendium of statistics measuring the state of education across the world.

The report found Australia is among the highest contributors to education spending in the world, at about 6% of gross domestic product.

But it found the proportion of public money spent on primary, high school and vocational education decreased significantly between 2005 and 2015.

By 2015 the share of private sources of non-tertiary education made up 19% of overall spending, the most of any advanced economy and double the OECD average of 8%.

At the same time, the government’s share of total expenditure on non-tertiary education declined from 73% to 66%. The report also found that in Australia, expenditure on non-tertiary education as a share of GDP decreased by 10% over the five year period between 2010 and 2015.

In Australia, private schools are funded through a mixture of parent fees, donations and per-student contributions from states and the Commonwealth.

Correna Haythorpe, the head of the Australian Education Union, said the report showed the “cost burden” of education funding was being shifted away from the government.

“This OECD report shows public expenditure on education in Australia is already well below the OECD average of 11% of public expenditure, and falling rapidly,” she said.

“The report shows that government policies have led to a significant shift over time in how education is funded. That shifts the cost burden from the government to the community.”

According to the report, global eduction funding has suffered as a result of the global financial crisis.

While public funding to education globally started to increase in 2010, it did so at a slower pace than GDP. Across OECD countries, total average expenditure on education at all levels decreased by 4.1% as a percentage of GDP.

“The effects of the global economic crisis that began in 2008 are currently reflected in the adjustments of public budgets and, therefore, in the expenditure on educational institutions across all levels of education,” the report stated.

In the university sector, private funding before public transfers – money given to the private sector through tuition or student subsidies, for example – accounts for 37% of all expenditure. Only the UK has a higher proportion of private university funding.

After public transfers, private expenditure accounts for 62% of the expenditure on tertiary education compared to the OECD average of 31%.

The AEU said it was concerned about findings on teacher workload.

The report found that in 2017 the net teaching time for Australian primary teachers per year was 865 hours, compared to the OECD average of 778 hours. Upper secondary teachers taught 797 hours, it found, compared to the OECD average of 655.

“Australian teachers are teaching larger classes and working significantly more hours than the OECD average, which is a clear indication of resource shortages,” Haythorpe said.

“When schools can provide extra staff, they can address larger classes and provide extra support for students who need it.”

The report also found gender differences in the labour marker remained “significant” in Australia.

In the last decade, tertiary attainment of 25-34 year-olds in Australia had “increased significantly”, reaching 52% in 2017.

That increase has been especially pronounced among women. Between 2007 and 2017, the share of 25-34 year-old women with tertiary education increased from 46% to 59%, above the OECD average of 50%. In 2016, half of the new entrants to doctoral programs were women.

In the same period the share of tertiary attainment among young men increased from 35% to 45%.

[“Source-theguardian”]

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