Ireland spends less than 36 other developed countries on its education system, when spending is measured as part of the countries gross domestic product (GDP), according to a new OECD report.
An annual education report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that Ireland spends 3.2% of its GDP on education, which is below the OECD average of 4, 9%.
Economists have said the large presence of multinational companies in the country means Ireland’s measurement of spending by GDP is less accurate than in other countries, but education unions say the figures confirm the extent of underinvestment in schools.
The OECD is made up of 38 developed countries, including most of Europe and other countries such as the United States, Canada, Korea, Israel and Australia.
When spending on education is measured as a percentage of GDP, Ireland ranks last in the group, behind Lithuania, Japan, Luxembourg and Hungary. Norway, Chile and Israel all spent more than 6% of their GDP on education, the report says.
The annual Education at a Glance report, published on Monday, indicates that on average in the OECD, 14% of young people leave secondary school without qualifications. However, in Ireland the study found that only 5% of people left school without completing the Leaving Certificate.
Almost two-thirds of 18-24 year olds in Ireland were in part-time or full-time education, which was “significantly higher” than the OECD average rate of 54%.
Only 4 per cent of third-level Irish students studied in private colleges, compared to an OECD average of 17 per cent.
Ireland ranks among the best countries when it comes to teacher salaries, the report says. Teacher salaries were higher only in Ireland, Germany, Austria, Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands.
The report also says that in almost all other countries, teachers’ salaries are lower than those of the average university-educated worker, with Ireland being “one of the few exceptions to this rule”.
The report indicates that the average salary of teachers increased by 6% between 2015 and 2021 in the OECD. In Ireland, teacher salaries have not kept up with this average, increasing by only 2 per cent over the same period.
The study also indicated that in Ireland, graduates in engineering, manufacturing and construction were the most employable.
When graduates in these fields were surveyed, around 95% were employed, compared with 77% of those who studied the arts, humanities or social sciences, according to the report.