Japan at Bottom of OECD in Education Spending

Japan spent a smaller part of its GDP on education than any of 31 other members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according to an OECD survey released Tuesday.

Japan public spending on education was just 3.6% of GDP in 2009, compared with an OECD average of 5.4%, according to Japan Times. That put Japan at the bottom of educational spending for the third consecutive year.

At the top in public education spending were Denmark with 7.5%, Iceland with 7.3% and Sweden with 6.6%.

The survey showed that Japanese private spending on tuition and other educational expenses was 31.9% of overall education spending — about twice as high as the 16% average among OECD nations. It was also the third highest behind only Chile and S. Korea. Currently the private component of spending is considerably less due to a measure implemented in fiscal 2010 by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to eliminate tuition fees at public high schools.

Japan also averaged more students per classroom than the OECD average in 2010, with 28 students in elementary schools against the OECD average of 21.2, and 32.9 in junior high against the OECD’s 23.4. Japan had the second highest class sizes in 2010, but DPJ reforms have provided for the reduction of class size for first- and second-graders in public elementary schools to a maximum of 35 in stages beginning in fiscal 2011.

Average statutory starting salary of Japan’s teachers in 2010 was ¥1,981,000 ($25,454), less than the OECD averages of $28,523 for elementary school, $29,801 for junior high school and $30,899 for high school teachers. Japan’s teacher salaries have decreased over the years, posing a challenge in recruiting talent.