Skip to main content

Reviewing Public Expenditure in Secondary Education

Go Search
New Atlas
Atlas, A-Z
Atlas Maps
MPP/MPA Programs
Core Topics
Illustrative Courses
Topic Encyclopedia
Concept Dictionary
Career Tips
Best Practices Project


Practice Advice on Education Policy

Reviewing Public Expenditure in Secondary Education (OECD advice for Latin American countries)

Description: The OECD advises that improved access to public education and higher education may help Latin American countries to achieve long-run GDP growth and enhanced democratic governance.

Commentary: Public spending on education is relatively high in Latin American countries, yet the per-pupil spending is far from OECD benchmarks. Most government spending is channelled to the primary education sector, and the tertiary and secondary education sectors receive minimal support. In contrast, in OECD countries, the bulk of public spending on education is chanelled to the upper-secondary sector. Latin American countries also face demographic challenges, as the demand for primary education is increasing in these countries, while the OECD countries have experienced a decade of decline.  The demographic problem may partially explain the Latin American countries’ focus on primary education as they strive to ensure that all citizens obtain at least the basic level of education. But, inequalities in access to education as well as discrepancy in school attendance still prevail in most Latin American countries, making universal enrollment in secondary education institutions hard to achieve. Latin American countries also score differently on international tests which measure learning outscomes of school children.

When it comes to evaluating the performance of an education system and government policies on education, the OECD provides the following recommendations:

  • Comparing the success rates of students to understand the relationship between funding, performance and equity.  The conclusions from PISA studies in OECD countries suggest that in order to improve education policies, contries need to promote science in school, make school admissions more academically selective, make school achievement data available to public and increase the time students spend at school and at home doing homework.
  • Evaluate the proportion of students pursuing studies at graduate levels to measure the system’s ability to produce students who later engage in Research and Development and successfully contribute to innovation and technology. If the proportion of students at this level is low, then the country’s educational system is failing to succeed at nurturing talent.
  • Evaluate the performance of students while taking into consideration their socio-economic background. If students from different backgrounds perform at similar levels, then the educational system can be described as equitable.
  • Spending on public education should only be a single factor of many that play a role in improving academic performance and equality of opportunity. Spending more on education does not automatically guarantee improved academic performance.

Specifically, for Latin American countries, the OECD suggests channeling more resources to secondary schools, as many students leave secondary school before competing it.  Latin American countries would also benefit from research and analysis of educational policies at regional level, in order to channel public funds to where they are needed the most.

Source: OECD (2008). Latin American Economic Outlook, “Best Practice in Public Expenditure: the Example of Education," at (accessed 28 October 2012).

Page Created By: Khilola B. Zakhidova on 11 November 2012. Updated by Ian Clark on 2 January 2013. The content presented on this page is drawn directly from the source(s) cited above, and consists of direct quotations or close paraphrases. This material does not necessarily reflect the official view of the publishing organization.



 Concepts relevant to this Best Practice

There are currently no favorite links to display.

 Other Best Practices relevant to this Best Practice

There are currently no favorite links to display.

 Other Resources relevant to this Best Practice

There are currently no favorite links to display.

Important Notices
© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance