13 September 2023

The latest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s ‘Education at a Glance’ report shows that Australia significantly underperforms against most OECD countries when it comes to investing in public schools.

The report, released today, also finds that Australian teachers on average have much higher workloads, higher than average class sizes and confirms that the salaries of Australia’s teachers plateau much earlier than they do in most OECD countries.

Additionally, the report also notes that private schools in Australia receive some of the highest share of Government funding in the cohort [1].

According to the report:

  • Australia spends only 1.5% of total government expenditure on upper secondary school education, 28.6% lower than the OECD average of 2.1%.
  • As a share of GDP, Australia spends only 0.8% on upper secondary school education, 27% lower than the OECD average of 1.1% of GDP.
  • Australia’s expenditure on teaching staff per student is below the OECD average and below the investment made in many comparator countries including Belgium, Germany, Norway, France, United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Denmark.
  • Australian teachers have the third highest average instruction times amounting at over 1000 hours each year, compared to an average of 805 hours in primary schools and 916 hours in secondary schools across the OECD.
  • The average experienced teacher salary in Australia is only 1.3 times higher than the graduate teacher wage - the sixth lowest in the OECD. In 12 countries including Israel, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Austria it is more than 150% the graduate teacher salary.
  • Australia spends more than all countries except Turkiye and Colombia on government funding for private schools, at 0.7% of the GDP; more than twice as much as the OECD average.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that the OECD’s report was yet another indicator pointing to the urgent need for full and fair funding of public schools across Australia.

“This report makes it clear that Australia is a global outlier in its failure to fully fund public education,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The chronic underfunding of Australia’s public schools has led to a chronic teacher shortage and a situation where schools struggle to provide our students with the individual support they need. This must change.

“The Albanese Government must address the crisis facing our nation’s public education system with the urgency it deserves.

“Australia’s public school teachers are some of the most dedicated and hard-working across the world, yet they continue to be left unsupported.

“Australian teachers have some of the highest workloads and largest class sizes globally. This is unacceptable.

“Our public school teachers strive to provide the best possible educational outcomes for students but Governments both federal and state governments are failing in their responsibility to students, and to Australia’s public education workforce.

“Currently only 1.3% of Australian public schools are funded to meet their Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) entitlements. That means over 98% of our public schools are not funded to meet the most basic student requirements.

“Years of inaction and underfunding of Australia’s public education system has resulted in a situation where our students risk falling behind compared to their peers globally.

“At the same time, private schools continue to benefit from ever-increasing governmental support.

“Fully funding public schools is the only way to ensure that every child has every opportunity to succeed.

“The Albanese Government must ensure that the next round of new school funding agreements with state and territory governments deliver full funding for all public schools across the country,” she said.

Ms Haythorpe said that as part of the new For Every Child campaign the AEU has released a national plan setting out the case for full funding and the top priorities for additional investment, including smaller class sizes, a permanent small group or individual tutoring program in every public school and additional support for students with disability or behavioural issues.

Media contact: Mayank Gurnani, 0414 463 827,

[1] OECD Education at a Glance 2023