Proportion of public expenditure on education fell by 40% in a decade

OECD report finds educational attainment levels in Ireland have increased significantly since 2000

The proportion of public expenditure on education fell fell from 13.7 per cent to 9.7 per cent in the decade between 2000 and 2010 according to statistics published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The OECD Education at a Glance 2013 report shows that the proportion of public expenditure on education in Ireland stood at 13.7 per cent in 2000, above the OECD average of 12.6 per cent.

However, a decade later Ireland’s education spend accounted for 9.7 per cent of public expenditure, below the OECD average of 13 per cent.

The drop in the proportion of public expenditure which goes towards education saw Ireland fall to 29th place in a 2010 ranking of 32 OECD countries, above only the Czech Republic, Japan and Italy.


Reacting to the report Peter Mullan of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) said the fall in the proportion of public spending on education was directly responsible for cuts to school budgets, school staffing and special needs teaching hours.

“It’s time we had a national debate on funding education properly in Ireland to ensure that all children get the education they deserve,” he said.

ASTI General Secretary Pat King described the reduction in available public expenditure for education as "alarming".

“This failure to prioritise and protect young people’s education can only be described as reckless and flies in the face of the Government’s stated commitment of developing Ireland as a knowledge economy,” he said.

However, despite the drop in the share of money being spent on education, the OECD reported that expenditure per student actually rose by 33 per cent Ireland between 2005 and 2010.

At the same time as the number of students at primary and secondary level and those taking part in post-secondary courses which do not result in a university degree or equivalent qualification rose by by 8 per cent.

It found that the total cumulative expenditure per student by educational institutions over the duration of their primary and secondary studies added up to USD $129,662 in 2010, above the OECD average of USD $106,320.

Educational attainment levels

The report found that educational attainment levels have increased significantly in Ireland since 2000, something it said was largely due to the younger generations:

“38 per cent of 25 to 34 year-olds have an upper secondary education as the highest level of attainment and 47 per cent have tertiary qualifications. This represents not only an important cross-generational change compared with older adults...but places Ireland above the OECD average of 39 per cent...For this age group, Ireland is now ranked behind only Canada, Japan and Korea.”

The OECD report showed that 89 per cent of Irish young people were expected to complete their Leaving Certificate in their lifetime meaning Ireland ranks 11th of 27 countries for second-level school completion and above the OECD average of 83 per cent.

Ireland also performs above average in terms of the percentage of students progressing from second-level to third level.

Neither employed nor in education or training

However, the OECD warned that, on average, young people in Ireland will spend more than three years either unemployed or out of the labour force.

“A significant proportion of young people are at risk of finding themselves neither employed nor in education or training (NEET), hampering their future integration into the labour market,” the report cautioned, adding that NEET rates for 15-29 year-olds stood at around 10 per cent in 2007, a figure which had more than doubled to 22 per cent in 2011.