Pumping more money into schools is no panacea
Japan Times -- Dec 29
Spending more money on public schools has long been the conventional way to try to improve student performance. Countries that allocate less than the average OECD expenditure expressed as a percentage of their gross domestic product are criticized for shortchanging students. But Japan and the United States illustrate that the preoccupation with spending is a distraction from a more fundamental issue.

Japan spends only 3.5 percent of its gross domestic product on education, which is below the OECD average of 4.7 percent. As a result, it has the third-largest class size, pays teacher salaries that have not kept up with inflation between 2008 and 2013, and provides 20 days of training for high school teachers compared with 70 to 120 days in half of other OECD countries. Early childhood education also suffers, with only 30 percent of children in publicly funded schools. That compares with the OECD average of 68.4 percent.

Yet despite these factors, Japanese students continue to excel on tests compared with their peers in other nations. For example, on the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, Japanese students ranked second in math and first in reading and science. Moreover, students distinguished themselves in problem-solving skills, which are considered indispensable for success in the global economy.

If educational spending is indeed the key to student performance, how do we explain these results?

The situation in the U.S. is the flip side of the coin. The U.S. spent $12,608 per student in 2010 - more than double in inflation-adjusted dollars than it spent in 1970. That puts the U.S. on a par with the OECD average expressed as a percentage of gross domestic product. Yet despite these increases in funding, its students performed below average in math on the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, and about average in reading and science. Moreover, its adjusted state SAT scores showed little improvement since the 1970s.

News source: Japan Times
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