Written Answers. - OECD Report.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

23 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the findings of the recent OECD report, Education at a Glance. [21761/02]

Martin Ferris

Question:

40 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the recent OECD report, Education at a Glance, and in particular its findings which indicate Ireland is 18th in expenditure per pupil in primary and secondary education despite years of economic growth. [21869/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 40 together, as both relate to the recent publication of Education at a Glance – OECD Indicators 2002.

Ireland comes out well in many of the OECD's comparisons, which is a reflection of the quality of our schools and teachers and, especially, of the ability of our young people to meet the many and varied challenges they are likely to face in their lives.

Irish students performed extremely well in the reading literacy measures included in the report, coming fifth out of 27 countries reported on. While our mathematical literacy was about average, Irish students also scored well on a measure of scientific knowledge, coming ninth out of the 27 countries in the study.

The report draws particular attention to the success some countries, including Ireland, have had in combining high quality education with social equity. This finding shows that our schools are having a great deal of success in ensuring that all students, whatever their backgrounds, can develop to their potential and is a great tribute to the work of both teachers and the school authorities. However, Ireland's relatively good performance in terms of equity in education by international standards does not provide grounds for complacency in this area. Substantial inequalities in education persist in the Irish education system and I am determined to address these issues at all levels of the system.

One area of continuing concern to me and to the Government is that of access by adults to education after they leave school, especially those who leave school early, and the report shows that we still have a way to go to match the standards set by many other countries. The programme for Government gives a commitment to establishing a "second chance guarantee" which will offer everyone who left school without completing the junior cycle the chance to participate on an adult education course.

By contrast, Ireland's current output of graduates from third level is high by international standards, with this country coming seventh out of 17 in our ratio of graduates to the general population at that age and fourth of 14 in respect of holders of certificates and diplomas.

The report presents a wide range of indicators relating to expenditure in education. The data in this regard relate to 1999 and show how our overall actual expenditure on education has increased dramatically since 1995, with this country coming fifth of 23 in terms of percentage increase in actual expenditure between 1995 and 1999. Expenditure per pupil, in equivalent US$, at primary level in Ireland rose from $2,574 to $3,018 between 1997 and 1999 and our expenditure per pupil at second level rose from $3,864 to $4,383 over the same two year period. In the period 1999 to 2002 expenditure from the Votes for first level and second level education increased further by 51% and 44%, respectively. These continued increases since 1999 should help to improve the relative position of primary and second level education. I am keenly aware of the importance of investment at these levels in promoting excellence and equity throughout the education system.