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Education Expenditure in Australia

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Australia invested $111.8 billion in education in 2015. The sources of this funding and the pathways it follows through various systems are complex. Rarely are all the components of this system captured in the one place. This report offers a detailed insight into investment in Australian education, capturing data from all levels – from early childhood to higher education – and all funding sources – the federal government, state governments, private contributions and the transfers that take place between these.

The complex picture shown in this report offers an important reference point for policy-makers, educators, researchers and economists. It draws on recently released data from the OECD, presented here in a way that offers relevance to the Australian context.

The report examines three key questions:

  • How much is spent on education – in total and per student?
  • What proportion of national income is spent on education?
  • What proportion of government spending is devoted to education?

For each of these questions, statistics are presented by level of education, sector and funding source. In addition, trends in funding over time are explored. The main body of the report offers overall highlights and graphical representations of the data. Appendix A contains detailed tables with the underlying statistics, while Appendices B and C offer technical information used in making calculations.

The key source for this data is the Australian Government Department of Education and Training submission for the annual joint UNESCO Institute for Statistics, OECD and Eurostat (UOE) data collection on education statistics (UOE, 2017, 2018). The statistics examined here were compiled for the OECD’s annual Education at a Glance publication (OECD, 2017, 2018a). Statistical tables relevant to this work are at OECD (2018b), under the theme Education and Training. The figures and tables developed for this report reorganise the UOE/OECD data in ways that more appropriately fit the Australian educational context.

The data here are rich and complex. The text in this report offers basic descriptions of the ‘big picture’ identified across the data. The purpose of this report is to provide this information in a format that will enable others to extract elements of relevance to them in order to make informed commentary relating to education investment in Australia.

Source: Australian Council for Educational Research, 2019.
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