Written Answers. - Investment in Education.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

972 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on the levels of expenditure on education compared with the OECD average; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1547/99]

The most recent international comparison in relation to investment in education, which is available to my Department, is contained in the 1998 OECD publication "Education at a Glance – OECD Indicators". This publication provides detailed comparative information and data on key aspects of the education system in OECD countries including the resources invested in education in a range of countries participating in the project during the period 1990 to 1995. The report notes that in 1995, the Irish proportion of total public expenditure accounted for by education was above average for the OECD countries, and at 13.5 per cent it was the highest in the EU. Further, the Irish proportion of total public expenditure accounted for by primary and secondary education was also above average for the OECD countries, and was the second highest after Spain in the EU.

In 1996, 17 per cent of Ireland's population was in the five to 14 age group, the highest proportion for the EU member staes where the average was 12.2 per cent. Ireland also has the highest proportion of young people aged 15 to 19 in the EU, and for the OECD as a whole Ireland ranked fourth for this age cohort. To a significant degree this situation presents the Irish education system with a greater challenge in the area of provision than that which confronts most other countries in the survey.

In broad outline the OECD report demonstrates that the Irish system of education compares favourably with the other OECD countries over a wide range of indicators. Nonetheless, the report demonstrates there is little room for complacency. Major challenges arising out of the growth in participation rates face us as we approach the millennium and the Government will continue to provide for a systematic general improvement in the education system. In this context the Deputy will recognise the significance of the major increases in education spending provided by this Government.