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Departmental Expenditure.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 22 March 2007

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Questions (196)

Seán Crowe

Question:

197 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount the Government spends on primary education in relation to the EU average. [10863/07]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

It is important to note that the international comparisons given below draw on 2003 data in most instances, and, that as a result significant advances in Ireland's performance on a number of fronts over the last three years are not reflected in the figures. For example, total expenditure by the Department of Education and Science has increased from 4.9% to 5.2% of national income (Gross National Income) between 2003 and 2005 arising from a 23% increase in overall spending.

The 2006 budget for my Department is €7.9 billion, compared to €5.4 billion in 2002 and €2.9 billion in 1997. Education expenditure at primary level in 2005 was €2.6 billion. In terms of European comparisons, total public expenditure on education as % of GDP, at Primary level in Ireland in 2003 was 1.5, higher than the EU25 average of 1.2. As the Deputy will be aware, the increased investment in education provided by this Government has allowed for major progress to be made in areas such as special education provision, falling pupil-teacher ratios, large increases in the numbers of teaching staff and higher levels of spending per student in real terms.

We will continue to give a high priority to investment in education in the overall allocation of national resources. Clearly, different tax levels and proportions of national income devoted to public spending impact on these results. It should be noted that, in 2003, 13.2% of total public spending in Ireland went on education compared to an average of 11.0 across the EU25 average. On this particular comparison Ireland has the 6th highest proportion for education out of 25 EU Member States. Our aim is to strike a balance between a relatively low level of taxation by international comparisons and the provision of adequate public services and measures to address socio-economic disadvantage.

The future of our society depends on the extent and quality of our investment in children — not least in their education and early care and development. The case for greater investment in education is overwhelming. In the past, investment in public services was severely restrained by resources and public indebtedness. Today, with the highly successful economic policies pursued by this Government, Ireland is a relatively more prosperous nation and we have greater scope to make further improvements to public infrastructure and provision. It is my firm intention to continue to provide for additional resources for education at all levels.

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