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NERI report: Ireland is seriously under-spending on education

By Anne Sexton - Last update


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The latest report from NERI – the Nevin Economic Research Institute – has found that Ireland under-spends in several crucial areas. These include education and infrastructure as well as research and development.

The report compares per person spending in Ireland to similar countries in Europe, as well as the USA and Japan. NERI concluded that the Irish government’s spending shortfall is between €2.5 to €3 billion. This under-investment could seriously affect the economy, particularly as the threat posed by Brexit is, as yet, unknown.

NERI Senior Economist, Dr Tom McDonnell said, “The best way to Brexit-proof the economy is to boost its long-run productive capacity. That means investing in our infrastructure, our people and new ideas. If we are to prosper in the future we will need to invest in our future.”

Education investment shortfall

The Irish government spends less per pupil from primary to third-level education than comparator countries.

The closest Ireland’s education spending is to the median is in upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education. Here, Ireland spends 93.52 percent of the median. For primary and lower secondary education, the Irish government spends slightly over 80 percent of the median.

The gap is widest in tertiary education from Levels 5 to 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications. Here the government spends 75.88 percent of the median.

Comparator countries

NERI compared Ireland to 12 other countries. These included the EU countries Belgium, Germany, France, Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Sweden and the UK. In addition, non-EU European countries used for comparison were Norway and Switzerland. Finally, Ireland’s spending was also compared to the USA and Japan.

Overall, the Republic of Ireland is the 3rd lowest spender per pupil on primary and lower secondary education. Ireland is also the single lowest spender per pupil on tertiary education.

NERI concluded that education spending would need to increase by almost €2 billion per year for Ireland to reach the comparator country median.


Anne Sexton

Brexit: the good and bad for Irish universities and students
Trinity Business School's new postgrad MSc Digital Marketing Strategy


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