A new report from the OECD has confirmed the strength of Australia’s education system and the opportunities it offers.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the OECD’s 2017 Education at a Glance report showed Australia’s education system ranked amongst the world’s best with high levels of access, participation and attainment and strong employment outcomes.

“While it can be difficult to compare with countries where much higher taxes help fuel government spending at the expense of personal contributions, these figures show Australia performs extraordinarily well on the world stage,” Minister Birmingham said.

“But we cannot rest on our laurels. From early learning and child care to schools, universities and vocational education, the Turnbull Government has been delivering reforms and investment to ensure Australians get the education and training they need to succeed.

“This report highlights that investment in Australian education accounts for 5.8 per cent of GDP compared to the OECD average of 5.2 per cent and while we will continue to boost that investment, we’re also focused on making it an effective investment.

“The Turnbull Government is focused on giving all children and students the opportunities they need to reach their potential by concentrating not just on how much money is being spent, but more importantly how it is spent.”

Minister Birmingham said spending as a percentage of GDP on higher education in Australia increased to 1.6 per cent of GDP– higher than last year’s report and above the OECD’s average of 1.4 per cent.

“The increase in higher education funding in Australia between 2005 and 2014 was the third highest in the OECD,” Minister Birmingham said.

“It’s clear that Australian higher education institutions can learn from their peers overseas that may have less investment but stronger performance when it comes to various international rankings.

“Our plan for higher education will see funding for universities continue to grow by 23 per cent while ensuring students have more choices and that we get the most bang for taxpayers’ bucks. That means using performance funding to keep universities focused on student outcomes.

“As we’ve seen in recent weeks there is absolutely capability for universities to make productivity and efficiency gains as former vice-chancellors and experts in higher education have identified.”

Minister Birmingham said total spending as a proportion of GDP on primary and secondary education was around
20 per cent above the OECD average, at 3.6 per cent.

“Our new student-centred funding plan has delivered funding certainty for our schools and school communities boosting funding per student by an average of around $2,300,” Minister Birmingham said.

“While a strong level of funding for schools is vital, what’s more important is how that funding is used, especially when Australia’s education performance has plateaued compared with other OECD nations.

“Now that record needs based funding is locked in, I’ve asked David Gonski and a panel of leading education experts to look closely at the most effective programs and initiatives for our schools that will boost student outcomes and set up this and future generations so they can reach their full potential.”

Minister Birmingham said total spending per child in Australia on all early childhood education programs was well above the OECD average and the 7th highest in the OECD.

“The Turnbull Government recognises the positive impact that investment in early learning and child care has for education outcomes but also for the broader workforce,” Minister Birmingham said.

“Our overhaul of early learning and child care alongside a $2.5 billion increase in investment will benefit around one million families by better targeting subsidies, abolishing the $7,500 rebate cap for low and middle income earners and putting downward pressure on incessant fees increases through our hourly rate cap. Our reforms also include extra support to remove some of the hurdles disadvantaged families face in accessing early learning and child care.

“This report highlights that Australia’s enrolments in early childhood education are in some age groups higher than the OECD average and they’ve improved after lagging behind in recent years. However, we know there’s work to be done in participation with around 30 per cent of children enrolled in early learning for the year before school not attending for the full 15 hours a week that Australian governments fund.

“There is also good news for Australian vocational education and training, with employment outcomes for Australian students above the OECD average as well.

“I hope that policymakers will use this report to continue driving improvement in Australian education. The Turnbull Government will keep firmly focussed on introducing and supporting education initiatives proven to boost the outcomes of our students to give them the best possible start in life.”

The OECD’s 2017 Education at a Glance Report is available on the OECD website.