IDEAS Media Statement

For Immediate Release

Education For All – Is Our Education Spending Effective?

Kuala Lumpur, 30 April 2015 – The UNESCO Education for All 2000 – 2015 Achievements and Challenges report was released earlier this month. While Malaysia was not a key feature as it is classified as an upper middle-income country, there are still areas of concern especially in the area of education budgeting.
According to the report, since 1999 Malaysia’s spending on education has remained above the recommended 15 to 20 percent of the budget. This is an encouraging sign – that the government places importance on education and is more than willing to invest in education.

“Even though the spending has remained fairly consistent the quality seems to be lagging behind. Malaysia ranks in the bottom third of PISA rankings, yet countries that spend a significantly smaller portion of their budget on education rank in the top two thirds. Are there lessons in efficiency that we can learn from countries such as the Netherlands, Canada and Australia that spend between 10 to 15 percent of their budgets on education?” commented Wan Saiful Wan Jan, CEO of IDEAS.

Another interesting expenditure was that on teacher salaries. The report notes that in developing countries usually the majority of the education budget is spent on teachers’ salaries. In the case of Malaysia above 70 percent of the education budget is spent on salaries, a figure that seems more comparable to lower income countries.

Wan Saiful added that, “Finland spends less than 50 percent of their education budget on teacher salaries. Yet, their student outcomes, based on PISA are much more satisfactory than Malaysia’s. Their teachers are highly regarded and qualified. I wonder if there a need to take another look at teachers and their role in education if we spend such a large portion of our budget on them yet our student outcomes are so poor?”

He concluded by saying, “It is high time that we make efficient use of our education budget and create an education system that the country can bank on.”

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IDEAS is Malaysia’s first think-tank dedicated to promoting market-based solutions to public policy challenges. We are an independent not-for-profit organisation. As a cross-partisan think tank, we work across the political spectrum. Our purpose is to advance market-based principles, and we are not bound by party politics, race or religion.

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Media enquiries:
IDEAS (+60-3) 6201 8896/ 8897
Tamanna Patel,

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