Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2011
 
People - Education
Financial and human resources for education
Data sources: UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

Public-sector spending for education in Asia and the Pacific is showing mixed trends, with some countries increasing spending while others are cutting expenditures as a result of the global financial and economic crisis. Public education expenditure as a percentage of GDP of most countries in the region remains below the recommended 6% threshold.1

Public expenditure

Public expenditure on education is one indication of the political priority of education in national policy. In most Asian and Pacific countries, public spending on education in 2008 ranged from 2.0% to 6.0% of GDP. Only Timor-Leste, the Maldives and Vanuatu spent the equivalent of 6.0% or more. Cambodia (at 1.6%, in 2007) and Azerbaijan (at 1.9%, in 2008) are the only two countries in the region whose ratio of public expenditure to GDP was less than 2.0%.

Between 2000 and 2008, the share of public education expenditure in GDP increased in 8 countries. The opposite trend was seen in 7 other countries during the same period. The changes ranged from an increase of 2.4 percentage points in Kyrgyzstan to a decline of 2.0 percentage points in Azerbaijan.

Looking at financial resources from another angle, the recommended proportion of total government expenditure allocated to education is 15 to 20%.2 Among Asian and Pacific countries and territories where data are available for 2008, most allocated 10% to 20%. Hong Kong, China; the Islamic Republic of Iran; Thailand; and Vanuatu allocated 20% or more of their total budget to the education sector.

Conversely, Georgia, Japan (2007), and Nauru (2007) allocated less than 10%. Between 2000 and 2008, a drop in education spending in proportional terms of total Government expenditure occurred in 11 Asian and Pacific countries. The decline was sharpest in Azerbaijan where the level dropped by 12 percentage points – from 24% in 1999 to 12% of total Government expenditure in 2008.

Figure I.40 – Public expenditure per pupil at primary-school level as a proportion of per capita GDP, Asia and the Pacific, earliest and latest years

Figure I.40 – Public expenditure per pupil at primary-school level as a proportion of per capita GDP, Asia and the Pacific, earliest and latest years

Public expenditure per student as a percentage of per capita GDP indicates per student expenditure relative to available resources. For primary education, the proportion ranged from 7.2% in Bhutan (2009) to 26% in the Maldives (2008). Only four countries – Azerbaijan (2006), Bhutan (2009), India (2006) and the Philippines (2007) – spent less than 10% per student as a percentage of per capita GDP at the primary level. The latest available data show that most countries spent between 10% and 20%.

At the secondary level, the share varied from 8.0% in Azerbaijan (2006) to 32% in Bhutan (2009).

For most countries, public expenditure per student as a percentage of per capita GDP is considerably higher for tertiary than for primary and secondary levels, owing to the greater costs of specialized courses, low pupil-to-teacher ratios, more elaborate facilities such as laboratories and other infrastructure at higher levels of education. The highest ratio was Bhutan, with a per student expenditure of 150% of per capita GDP, while the lowest was Armenia at 6.8%.

Note that public expenditure per student as a percentage of per capita GDP is dependent on whether education is paid for by the state and the role of private education providers; this is especially relevant for tertiary education. Specifically, a higher value may reflect that the government is the major provider of education. Caution should thus be employed when comparing across countries. For example, comparability is limited across different educational arrangements such as where the state pays private companies to deliver public education, where school fees make up a large proportion of household expenditure, or a mostly public education system.

Pupil-to-teacher ratio

Increasing spending on education is not sufficient to ensure success in achieving educational goals. The quality of education is key as the end product of the system. The EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011 has noted that “Increased financing does not guarantee success in education – but chronic underfinancing is a guaranteed route to failure.”3 Beyond increases in spending, financing calls for equity and efficiency in distribution and utilization of resources. In this respect, differences in pupil-toteacher ratios within countries provide some insight into the equity of education expenditure country-wide and the potential quality of learning for students.

Teachers’ salaries account for a considerable chunk of public education expenditure. As the number of teachers is among the main determinants of the overall quality of education, the pupil-to-teacher ratio provides some indication of educational quality. In 2008, the global average indicates that each primary-level teacher is responsible for 25 students. In Europe and North America, one primary school teacher is responsible for 14 students, while the primary-level pupil-to-teacher ratio is 41:1 for Africa and 25:1 for Asia and the Pacific in 2008. The pupil-to-teacher ratio for Asia and the Pacific only changed slightly between 1999 and 2008 – from 26:1 to 25:1.

Within the Asia-Pacific region, the average pupilto- teacher ratio for high-income countries is 19:1 while teachers in low-income countries have on average 38 students. As subregional and regional averages mask huge disparities between countries, national average mask disparities within countries. The average national primary-level pupil-to-teacher ratios in 2008 ranged from 9:1 (Georgia) to 49:1 (Cambodia). Roughly half of the countries where data are available have pupilto- teacher ratios of more than 20:1. If data were available to factor in teachers’ qualifications and certification, it might reveal even greater disparities.

Pupil-to-teacher ratios are generally considerably lower at the secondary level in comparison with the primary level. Globally, the average ratio was 18:1 in 2008, ranging from 11:1 in Europe to 21:1 in Africa. The average pupil-to-teacher ratio for Asia and the Pacific is 19:1. The lowest national pupil-to-teacher ratio at secondary level is 7:1 in Armenia, while the highest is in Nepal with 41:1 in 2008.

Figure I.41 – Pupil-to-teacher ratios at primaryand secondary-school levels, Asia and the Pacific, 2008

Figure I.41 – Pupil-to-teacher ratios at primaryand secondary-school levels, Asia and the Pacific, 2008

A smaller pupil-to-teacher ratio, that would enable teachers to pay closer attention to each student, should result in improving the quality of education. However, average national pupilto- teacher ratios do not reveal the full picture of teaching quality. A low national pupil-to-teacher ratio does not guarantee a good quality of education. Teacher distribution patterns, and teachers’ skills, competencies, experience and training, are also crucial in ensuring a high level of educational quality.


1 UNESCO and CONFINTEA VI, Harnessing the Power and Potential of Adult Learning and Education for a Viable Future: Belem Framework for Action, Para. 14a, p. 5. Available at: www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/INSTITUTES/UIL/confintea/pdf/working_documents/ Belém%20Framework_Final.pdf. Note that the Conference committed to 6% of GNP; however, as GNP data is not available for many Asia-Pacific countries GDP is used for analysis purposes.

2 Oslo Declaration, UNESCO and the High Level Group meeting on Education for All (EFA). Available at: http://www.unesco.org/education/Oslo_Declaration_final_17dec08.pdf.

3 UNESCO, The Hidden Crisis: Armed Conflict and Education, Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2011 (Paris, 2011), p. 101.

 
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