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The 10 Nations That Spend The Most On Their Students

Rich Countries
The 10 Nations That Spend The Most On Their Students

Education is important to most people; whether you have children or not, you realize that an educated country, with educated future generations, tends to come out on top. Having an educated workforce is vital to a country’s economic health and well-being. Obviously, some countries have the resources and ability to turn out a more consistently educated workforce than others. It should be noted, though, that educational financing isn’t the only determining factor in how well-educated a country is; other variables like cultural norms can influence a country’s education level, and you’ll notice that this list of most well-financed education systems differs slightly from our recent list of the most all-round well-educated countries. However, educational spending is a good starting point to assess how well-educated a country is and indeed, for each big-spending country on this list, only one of those has less than a 99% literacy rate.

There are many different ways to look at how money is spent on education. For example, one can examine the percentage of a country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) that’s spent on education, or the total actual amount each country spends on education, or perhaps how much money each country spends per student. For the purposes of this article, we’re taking a look at the latter group, examining the total spending and spending-per-student in OECD member countries. Acknowledging how much is spent per child helps us understand the impact of a country’s spending on future generations.

Each country is set up a little differently, of course. But keep in mind, although some of these countries have free higher education, college and university students are not considered in these amounts: These amounts represent a country’s spending on average between primary, secondary and non-tertiary education. The information provided in this article is sourced from a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation.

10. United Kingdom – $9,980.07 per student


The UK boasts a 99% literacy rate according to the World Factbook, which is the established norm for the most well-educated countries of the world. Few countries can boast a higher rate than, although the elite few do exist – and some of them even feature on our list. The average child in the UK attends school until they’re 17 years old, which covers their primary to tertiary education. When the amount spent on education is considered in the context of the country’s total wealth, the UK spends 5.6% of their GDP on education.

9. Sweden – $10,044.38 per student


Not only is Sweden number nine on our list, they’re also in the top fifteen countries with the highest starting salaries for beginning teachers. The average pay for a new teacher here is $30,058 per year. They spend a total of 7.3% of their GDP on education, and have a literacy rate of 99% with the average child attending school until they’re 16 years old.

8. Netherlands – $10,075.19 per student

Edited Netherlands School

Considering how much the Netherlands spends on education per student, it’s perhaps not surprising that they’d also be in the top ten for a teacher’s starting salary, which is $36,626 per year. The Netherlands spend 5.9% of the country’s GDP on education and the average student attends school until they’re 17 years old. As with most of the countries on this list, they have a literacy rate of 99%.

7. Belgium – $10,122.99 per student


Belgium’s education system is regulated and financed through three different communities – Flemish, French and German-speaking. All three have a unified school system with only small differences from one community to the next. Children are required to attend school until they’re 18 – or until they graduate – and while it’s not mandatory, 90% of children attend pre-school starting as young as 2 1/2 years old. Belgium spends 6.6% of their GDP on education and they also have a 99% literacy rate.

6. Denmark – $11,403.50 per student

Edited Denmark School

Education in Denmark is compulsory until 15 or 16 years of age, however that doesn’t mean that it’s required to attend public school, known as Folkeskole. Denmark spends 8.7% of their country’s GDP on education and has a literacy rate of 99%. For teachers just starting out, Denmark is particularly attractive; this country offers the 4th highest pay rate for new teachers of any OECD country, paying about $43, 460 per year.

5. Austria – $11,693.07 per student

Edited Austria School

Austria has a free public education system that requires students to attend school for nine years. Schools offer both vocational, technical and university prep tracks. However, Austria is the one country on our list of well-moneyed educations systems that has a literacy rate lower than 99%; it comes in at slightly under 98% literacy. But it comes in at 12th place with regard to teacher’s salaries – $31, 500. Austria spends about 6% of their GDP on education.

4. United States – $11,825.89 per student

Edited United States School

The United States spends 5.4% of the nation’s GDP on education, which is less than many of those on this list. But as the richest country in the world, they still spend more per student than most other countries. And while there is a debate over whether teachers get paid enough, the U.S. comes in at 5th place for starting teacher’s salaries; on average, a new teacher can make $37, 594 per year. Then again, the US drops down to 8th place for teachers with 10 years of experience, so their income growth isn’t as good as it is in other countries. Still, even with its problems in the education system, the US can boast a 99% literacy rate.

3. Norway – $13,066.64 per student

Edited Norway School

Remember how we mentioned that some countries do even better than the typical 99% literacy rate? Norway is one of those countries with an incredible 100% literacy rate. Norway has been praised internationally for their education system, but it doesn’t come cheap: They spend 7.3% of the nation’s GDP on education, and new teachers can expect to make around $33,349 per year. Not one of the highest salaries, but still within the top 15 starting salaries among OECD countries.

2. Switzerland – $13, 510.48 per student


Swiss teachers luck out compared to those in the rest of the world. Why? Because Switzerland is number three for the highest starting salaries for teachers. They can expect to make $47, 329 and within ten years, that rises to a whopping $52, 444. The Swiss spends 5.4% of their GDP on education and they have a literacy rate of 99%. The average student is in school until they’re 16 years old.

1. Luxembourg – $19,049.81 per student


Considering how much Luxembourg spends on education per student, it should come as no surprise that they also have the highest starting salaries for teachers. Teachers with no experience, who are just starting out and teaching primary school, they can expect to make $64,042 per year. With ten years of experience under their belts, they can expect to make more than $80,000 per year. As far as education in Luxembourg goes, the average child goes on to spend about 14 years in school, that is from primary through tertiary school. It’s obvious that Luxembourg prizes education and it shows with a literacy rate of 100% for those over the age of 15.

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