A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has ranked Ireland in last place out of 36 countries when it comes to investment in education.

The 'Education At A Glance 2021' report shows Ireland spent 3.3% of GDP on primary to tertiary educational institutions in 2018, 1.6 percentage points lower than the OECD average.

The report states that across levels of education, Ireland devoted a lower share of GDP than the OECD average at both non-tertiary and tertiary levels.

The report says tuition fees charged by public institutions in Ireland are among the highest for a bachelor's programme across countries with available data.

It states that they are 14% more than students were charged on average in 2009/10.

But the report also shows that the fees actually paid by national students are considerably lower due to government support.

It found that in Ireland, 62% of women aged 25-34 had a tertiary qualification in 2020, compared to 54% of their male peers.

These figures compare to OECD averages of 52% among young women and 39% among young men.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation, Research and Science Simon Harris welcomed the OECD report.

Minister Harris said: "We should be very proud of the numbers of people in Ireland who choose to further their education at a tertiary level."


The report states that while the short and long-term effects of Covid-19 on learning are still uncertain, there is a risk that the pandemic could exacerbate these existing learning gaps.

The spread of Covid-19 has continued to impede access to in-person education in many countries around the world in 2021.

The report says that the number of instructional days when schools were fully closed since the start of 2020 due to the pandemic (excluding school holidays, public holidays and weekends) varies significantly between countries and increases with the level of education.

It states that in Ireland, pre-primary schools were fully closed for an average of 72 days between 1 January 2020 and 20 May 2021.

Primary schools closed for at least 96 days, lower secondary for 91 days and upper secondary general schools for at least 72 days.

In comparison, respective closures were 55, 78, 92 and 101 days on average across the OECD.

Class size

The report says that the average class size of Irish primary schools is 24, compare to an OECD average of 21 pupils.

Reacting to the report, the INTO said that it showed that class sizes are too high in Ireland.

ASTI President Eamon Dennehy, said that ongoing failure to invest in our schools will have long-term social and economic consequences both for individuals and our society.

"If we take GDP as a measure of national wealth, it is unacceptable that a rich country like Ireland remains at the bottom of the global rankings", he said.

The report also says that the highest enrolment rates of 3-5 year-olds in early childhood education and care and primary education are found in Ireland Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom, where they equal or exceed 97%.

The Teachers' Union of Ireland President said that the report makes it crystal clear that educators have been carrying out their work in a sector that he described as chronically and disgracefully under-resourced by international standards.

Martin Marjoram said recent experiences related to the pandemic have made clear just how many schools and classrooms are unfit for the requirements of modern education.

He added the ongoing failure to invest sufficiently must be viewed as a continued attack on the most vulnerable.