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About the data



Education inputs Definitions

Data on education are collected by the United

The primary school pupil–teacher ratio reflects the

• Public expenditure per student is public current

Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organi-

average number of pupils per teacher at the specified

and capital spending on education divided by the

zation (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics from official

level of education. It differs from the average class

number of students by level as a percentage of gross

responses to its annual education survey. The data

size because of the different practices countries

domestic product (GDP) per capita. • Public expen-

are used for monitoring, policymaking, and resource

employ, such as part-time teachers, school shifts,

diture on education is current and capital expendi-

allocation. While international standards ensure

and multigrade classes. The comparability of pupil–

tures on education by local, regional, and national

comparable datasets, data collection methods may

teacher ratios across countries is affected by the

governments, including municipalities. • Trained

vary by country and within countries over time.

definition of teachers and by differences in class size

teachers in primary education are the percentage

For most countries the data on education spend-

by grade and in the number of hours taught, as well

of primary school teachers who have received the

ing in the table refer to public spending—total gov-

as the different practices mentioned above. More-

minimum organized teacher training (pre-service or

ernment spending on education at all levels plus

over, the underlying enrollment levels are subject to

in-service) required for teaching at the specified level

subsidies provided to households and other private

a variety of reporting errors (for further discussion of

of education in their country. • Primary school pupil–

entities—and generally exclude the part of foreign

enrollment data, see About the data for table 2.12).

teacher ratio is the number of pupils enrolled in pri-

aid for education that is not included in the govern-

While the pupil–teacher ratio is often used to com-

mary school divided by the number of primary school

ment budget. The data may also exclude spending

pare the quality of schooling across countries, it is

teachers (regardless of their teaching assignment).

by religious schools, which play a significant role in

often weakly related to student learning and quality

many developing countries. Data are gathered from

of education.

ministries of education and from other ministries or agencies involved in education spending.

All education data published by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics are mapped to the International

The share of public expenditure devoted to educa-

Standard Classification of Education 1997 (ISCED

tion allows an assessment of the priority a govern-

1997). This classification system ensures the com-

ment assigns to education relative to other public

parability of education programs at the international

investments, as well as a government’s commitment

level. UNESCO developed the ISCED to facilitate

to investing in human capital development. However,

comparisons of education statistics and indicators

returns on investment to education, especially pri-

of different countries on the basis of uniform and

mary and lower secondary education, cannot be

internationally agreed definitions. First developed in

understood simply by comparing current education

the 1970s, the current version was formally adopted

indicators with national income. It takes a long time

in November 1997.

before currently enrolled children can productively

The reference years shown in the table reflect the

contribute to the national economy (Hanushek

school year for which the data are presented. In


some countries the school year spans two calendar

High-quality data on education finance are scarce.

years (for example, from September 2009 to June

Improving the quality of education finance data is a

2010); in these cases the reference year refers to

priority of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Addi-

the year in which the school year ended (2010 in the

tional resources are being allocated for technical

previous example).

assistance to countries in need, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa. Interagency partnerships and collaborations with national ministries in charge of education finance data are improving, and actual expenditure data are increasingly being collected. Tracking private educational spending is still a challenge for all countries. The share of trained teachers in primary education reveals a country’s commitment to invest in the development of its human capital engaged in teaching, but it does not take into account differences in teachers’ experiences and status, teaching methods, teaching materials, and classroom conditions—all factors that affect the quality of teaching

Data sources

and learning. Some teachers without this formal

Data on education inputs are from the UNESCO

training may have acquired equivalent pedagogical

Institute for Statistics (

skills through professional experience.

2011 World Development Indicators


World Development Indicators 2011 Part 1 of 2  

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