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PISA score and expenditure: bad, good and better investments in education

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Intervallo dati: 
Saturday, 1 January, 2005 to Monday, 31 December, 2012

We compared data from PISA 2012 Results in Focus with those from Eurostat related to the average yearly expenditure per student from 2005 to 2010, expressed in PPS (purchasing power standard), which is an artificial financial unit, whose value is calculated so that with one PPS it is possible to buy the same good or service in every country (1).

CountryPISA score 2012PISA OECD meanSpesa per studente (PPS)
Romania445below1970
Bulgaria439below2463
Lithuania479below3196
Latvia491average3511
Poland518above3578
Estonia521above3716
Hungary477below3897
Croatia471below3964
Czech Republic499average4371
Greece453below4479
Portugal487average5044
Ireland501above6023
Italy485below6281
Slovenia501above6327
Spain484below6567
Finland519above6797
France495average6849
Germany514above6976
Belgium515above7371
Japan536above7442
Sweden478below7792
United Kingdom494average7811
Iceland493average7862
Netherlands523above7998
Cyprus440below8000
Austria506above8735
Denmark500above8812
Norway489average9758
United States481below11254

We represented such data with a Cartesian diagram; on the X axis, expenditure data are shown, whilst on the Y axis PISA data are displayed. The graph reveals an expected phenomenon: trend line shows that those countries that spend more also obtain better results.

However, there are also some relevant exceptions. In the green quarter, there are the countries with a below-the-average expenditure but a over-the-average performance - Estonia, Poland, Ireland, Czech Republic - whilst the red quarter displays the opposite situation, that is those countries with higher expenses and lower efficiency. Italy is in this quarter but, surprisingly, there are also Sweden, Norway and United States, all of which spend much more and get lower results than our country, which is quite close to the general averages of both expenditure and performance.

The two outliers, which could consitute, respectively, negative and positive models, are US and Japan. The United States spend more than 11,000 pps, a sum definitely higher than the other countries analyzed but have a PISA score of 490, which is below the average (480). Japan's expenditure, on the contrary, is a bit higher than the average (7442 against 6167) but with a really high PISA score (536). Just behind the Land of the Rising Sun comes the Netherlands, with a score of 523 and an expenditure of 7998 pps.

To sum up, as a general rule spending more means better results, with some exceptions. Also, European northern countries are not always a model. Furthermore, some Eastern European countries developed a system that grant a great efficieny but Japanese stand above all.

 

1. Data refer to primary, secondary and tertiary schools. Several countries from PISA report are not included in this analysis, because it was not possible to obtain data for their epxenditure per student.

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