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Fri 10 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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"Shocking" Australian education spend slammed

Australia spends less on public education than any country in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) bar Belgium, states a report by the organisation.

Australia spends less on public education than any country in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) bar Belgium, states a report by the organisation.

Investment on all levels of public education institutions totalled 4.3% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), compared with the OECD's average of 5%.

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said the "shocking rankings" are the legacy of inadequate spending on education by the government of former prime minister John Howard.

"The [government of present prime minister Kevin Rudd] now has the responsibility for addressing the chronic under-spending that has left the Australian public education system grossly under-funded."

In defence of the former prime minister's government, opposition spokesman Tony Smith said that the minimal funding was a result of the debt it inherited when it came into power.

"If there wasn't a $96 billion [US$78.9 billion] debt that had to be paid off over 10 years and you didn't have an interest bill of nearly $9 billion [$7.4 billion] a year, more money would have been available," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The report also singles out Australia for putting pressure on tertiary students to pay more than half of their university costs.

Out of the 28 developed nations in the OECD, Denmark, the United States and South Korea spent the most on state schools and universities. The figures were taken from studies completed in 2005.

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