Cost vs. Benefit in Education

One of the most surprising results of the various Pisa-Studies (OECD) on the relative qualifications of 15-year-old students around the globe is that no obvious direct link seems to exist between either the fundamental structure of education or the level of investment in education, and the resulting proficiency of students.

The amount of money invested in education per pupil was not directly related to performance in any of the key academic areas—literature (including reading), mathematics, and science.  This was true across all structural types of education–centralized, decentralized, government controlled, or private enterprise-based.

Germany and the United States surprisingly have very similar relative performance results, despite being nations with very different educational systems and philosophies, as well as highly different levels of educational funding.

Results were identical even though the respective nations are on opposite ends of the funding spectrum.

It appears, the more traditional belief that the attitude, expectations, and approach of a society towards education in general by all parties involved (parents, extended family, and the immediate social environment in particular), and the resulting focus and dedication by students and teachers, is as important to “good education” as the structure and financial investment.

Indeed these qualities may be more important than any organizational or financial structure.

It becomes clear that the investment by a country, community or immediate social environment towards quality education may be more than fiscal.  It rather is a measure of commitment and dedication to the students themselves, and not to the structure alone.

As such, the cost of education is not simply measurable in Dollars or Euros alone and the results not simply measurable in test grades. The current structure of comparing both, cost/investment and results/benefits between national education systems is thus not providing a comprehensive and conclusive picture.

Egon L. Lacher, Managing Partner/Miami