This is the most absurd “report” yet. This organization says that the U.S. does not have an “efficient” school system. Finland has the most efficient school system. What can we do to become more efficient? Cut teachers’ salaries and increase class size.
Funny, when I visited Finland in 2011, I saw many classes, none larger than 16. Teachers’ pay is equivalent to U.S. pay.
“The Efficiency Index –which education systems deliver the best value for money? was released today.
US ranks nineteenth out of thirty countries in new ranking of education system efficiency
Released 19.01 EDT Thursday September 4 2014
The US ranks in the bottom half of a new international comparison of the efficiency of education systems across OECD countries – lower than Japan, Korea and many northern European countries.
The Efficiency Index –which education systems deliver the best value for money?, commissioned by GEMS Education Solutions, is the first comprehensive international analysis that looks at how efficiently education budgets are allocated in each country.
It ranks 30 OECD countries based on their expenditure on teacher costs, which account for 80 per cent of education budgets, and the pupil outcomes they achieve. In this way, it calculates which system generates the greatest educational return for each dollar invested.
The report is written by Professor Peter Dolton, Professor of Economics at Sussex University and a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics; Dr Oscar Marcenaro GutieÌ�rrez, Associate Professor at the University of MaÌ�laga; and Adam Still, Education Finance and Development Specialist at GEMS Education Solutions.
The index ranks Finland as the most efficient country in the OECD. According to the index’s econometric model, which calculates the proven statistical link between teacher salaries or class size and PISA scores, the US could match Finland high PISA’s results and still make efficiency savings by increasing class sizes and making a modest cut in teacher salaries. It finds that these results could be achieved even if the US was to increase its pupil/teacher ratio by 10 per cent.
Alternatively, if it were more efficient, the US could match Finland’s PISA results and still reduce teacher salaries by 4.7 per cent from the US average teacher salary of $41,460 to $39,520. The index argues that the US should consider addressing both teacher salary and class sizes to improve its education efficiency. As the largest country in the OECD, its overall education spend is five times that of any other country in the study and its teacher salaries are comparatively high.
The report stops short of advocating particular changes to salaries or class size in each country. It makes clear that there may be labour market, cultural, economic or political reasons why this ‘maximum’ efficiency is not possible without negative consequences. The authors have not examined the practical impact of such changes in each country. However, by showing how far countries fall short of the OECD’s most efficient system, the index provides an instructive point of comparison when Governments are allocating budgets.
The report groups the countries according to their efficiency:
1. Elite Performers: Finland, Japan and Korea score very well in both the efficiency and quality stakes.
2. Efficient and Effective: Australia, Czech Republic, New Zealand and Slovenia are all performing relatively well on efficiency and producing high PISA scores.
3. More Effective than Efficient: Overspending (too high salaries) or bloated (too many teachers): Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland. These countries perform better in terms of quality than efficiency. This may be because their system generates other outcomes that aren’t captured by PISA rankings. Alternatively, it may be because their systems are over-resourced beyond the threshold required to achieve high educational outcomes.
4. More Efficient than Effective: Underspending or underperforming: Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Sweden, UK and USA. These countries are more efficient than educationally effective. This could be because they have resource constraints that prevent them from improving quality such as low salaries may prevent the recruitment of highly skilled teachers. Alternatively, if extensive resources are already being spent, it could that the education system is flawed – and that policy changes, rather than additional resources, would improve education outcomes.
5. Inefficient and Ineffective: Brazil, Chile, Greece, Indonesia, Turkey These systems are inefficient and at the same time fail to produce good pupil outcomes.
The report finds that changes to teacher salary and pupil teacher ratio can improve efficiency because, out of 63 different inputs into the education system – from teaching materials to infrastructure – these were the only two that had a statistically significant impact on pupils’ PISA scores.
This is a powerful insight for policy makers since, unlike a child’s socio-economic background, parental support, or a child’s aspirations, governments have the policy levers to change both teacher salary and class sizes.
The report acknowledges that some countries, such as Switzerland and Germany, which both spend lavishly on their education system and achieve good results, may choose to pursue policies in which educational efficiency is not their priority. For instance, they may feel that PISA does not capture all the student outcomes that their system is aiming for.
Together, the 30 OECD countries in the study spent $2.2 trillion dollars on their education systems each year, and the average proportion of GDP that countries spend on education has been rising for decades. In an environment where state education budgets are likely to continue to be stretched and face competition from other spending priorities, the Efficiency Index sheds light on the effectiveness of the spending choices that policy-makers are currently making.
Over the last 15 years Finland’s education system has been the most efficient in the OECD. Other high performers include Korea, Japan and Hungary and the Czech Republic. In contrast, Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy exhibit low efficiency.
Excellent outcomes are still possible with relatively large class sizes – despite a focus on reducing class-sizes in many western education systems. Finland and Korea, the two countries studied with the most efficient education systems, achieve good results, have relatively large class sizes – the 3rd and 5th largest of the OECD countries – and pay teachers moderate wages.
The US is in the bottom third of the efficiency index. As the biggest OECD country, it has an overall education spend five times higher than any other country in the study and pays very high teachers salaries.
Countries can be inefficient if they both underpay or overpay teachers. Some countries such as Indonesia and Brazil are inefficient because their low teachers pay makes it hard to recruit and retain high-calibre individuals into the profession. Modest extra expenditure would result in significantly better educational outcomes. Equally, higher salaries given to teachers who are already achieving excellence, such as those paid in Switzerland and Germany, may fail to increase performance and therefore harm efficiency.
In general those countries that demonstrate high efficiency also attain high educational outcomes. Five out of the top ten countries in the Efficiency Index are also in the PISA top ten.
Chris Kirk, Chief Executive, GEMS Education Solutions:
“GEMS Education Solutions commissioned the efficiency index to inform the debate about which items of educational expenditure are likely to make the greatest impact on the attainment of children.
It allows us to see which systems around the world produce the best results per pound, providing a data driven analysis that can inform policy choices. It clearly shows that some countries spend their available resources more efficiently than others.
“At a time at which many countries are struggling with tight public budgets. It also sends an important message to poorer countries that significant educational improvement is possible even with limited investment.”