Which countries invest the most in education?

Which countries invest the most in education? Which ones have the most literate population? Which ones have more citizens with higher education? Which ones do better in international education rankings? The answers to these questions indicate thriving educational systems around the world and may also be indicative of the country’s success.

While Teaching is a priority in most parts of the world, investment varies greatly from nation to nation.

Countries that invest the most in education


To find out which countries invest the most in Teaching , the Insider website has compiled a list based on data from the famous Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), in addition to the World Bank and the United States Department of Education, to see how much countries around the world spend on education (converted into US dollar amounts) and what they are getting out of it.

1. Norway

Norway invested US$15,000 per student in 2015. Education is compulsory for students aged six to 16 and a differentiator is that the national curriculum in public schools emphasizes the importance of arts and music

2. United States

The United States spent $12,800 per student in 2015 and more than $700 billion in total. Although it has invested the second largest amount in the world, it is still insufficient when it comes to academic performance.

American students consistently perform poorly when compared to other industrialized countries.

3. Belgium

Despite having more private than public schools, the Belgian government invested US$12,300 per student in 2015.

It is possible to study for free in Belgium, but private schools are more popular and subsidized in part by the government.

4. South Korea

South Korea spent $12,000 per student in 2015. The country recently started offering free part-time preschool for children aged three to five.

According to the National Center for Education and the Economy , South Korea places great emphasis on equality in its public schools. Since the 1970s, the South Korean government has used an “equalization” policy that replaced competitive entrance exams with random allocations of students to all secondary schools in the country, both private and public.

To implement the policy, the government provided financial subsidies to private schools, with strong regulations.

5. Iceland

Iceland invested US$11,600 per student in 2017. All Icelandic children aged between six and 16 must attend school and can do so for free.

If students complete the compulsory phase, they are guaranteed admission to “upper secondary educational system”, which is intended for students between the ages of 16 and 20. There is only one private high school in the entire country.

6. United Kingdom

The UK spent $11,400 per student in 2015 and has six types of schools. Children must study until high school, which usually goes until age 16.

Students can opt for “religious schools”; “free schools,” which are government-funded but do not have to follow the national curriculum; private schools or “state boarding schools,” which are government-funded but charge for room and board.

7. Sweden

Sweden spent $11,400 per student and requires ten years of compulsory educational for students over six.

Sweden divides national educational system into three distinct sections: optional pre-school, compulsory education from grades 1 to 10, and optional “high school” for grades 10-12.

Since 2013, in an effort to “raise the status of the teaching profession”, the Swedish government has required professional certifications for all school and preschool teachers.

8. Netherlands

The Netherlands spent $11,000 per student in 2015 and has more private schools than almost most of the countries on the list. As one of the most densely populated countries in the world, it has been offering free and affordable educational system  since 1801.

Unlike most of Europe, which tends to have strict rules and regulations for who can open a school, the Netherlands allows virtually anyone to run a school and create a curriculum of their choice, as long as it meets certain national educational requirements.

9. Austria

Austria spent $11,100 per student in 2015. The country emphasizes public educational system and requires students to attend classes for at least nine years, aged six to 15.

Upon completing the nine years of compulsory educational system, Austrian students can choose to continue with one to four years of vocational or university classes.

We have a full article on Austrian higher education that will make you want to study in this amazing country in Europe.

10. Germany

Germany has one of the best education systems in Europe, but it wasn’t always that way. After a series of disappointing results in national tests in 2001 and reports of inequality, the German government stepped in to find solutions quickly. In 2001, the country overhauled its education system and, in 2015, it was already investing US$ 11,000 per student.

School days have increased from four to six and a half hours; access to preschool and kindergarten was expanded; and one was established national standard to improve academic performance.

Do countries with more money buy better education?

Insider’s list also considered countries’ results in the Program for International Student Assessment , better known as PISA, a triennial assessment of school performance among 15-year-olds from 80 different countries coordinated by the Organziazion for Economics. Co-Operation and Development (OECD).

While PISA is intended to help improve Teaching  policies around the world by testing students’ knowledge of reading, math and science, according to Insider, some critics reject the usefulness of comparing international test scores and even consider the PISA reinforces a “neoliberal pattern of educational policies”.

After all, can the richest countries “buy” a better performance in PISA? The OECD itself published a report answering this question. “Greater national wealth or greater spending on education do not guarantee better student performance”, he says.

According to the report, the PISA results show that the success of a country’s educational system depends more on how resources are used than the amount invested in education.

“The countries with the best PISA performance are not the richest, nor do they allocate more money to Teaching ,” he explains. “The best performers across high-income countries and economies tend to invest more in teachers. For example, high school teachers in South Korea and the Hong Kong-China partner economy, two systems that perform well on PISA reading tests, earn more than double the GDP per capita in their respective countries.”

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