Chapter Eight

Cost & Funding


Finnish education expert, Pasi Sahlberg, says the much lauded transformation of the Finnish education system came “at a reasonable cost.” 92

So reasonable, in fact, that 98% of the cost of education at all levels is covered by government rather than by private sources – and, indeed, Finland’s education spending per child is not far from the OECD average.93

Overall, Finland spends about ,200 less per student than the US ’ ,700 per-pupil average,94 with learners having fewer hours of instruction than in any other OECD country. At the lower secondary level, Finnish teachers teach around 600 hours per year, compared with around 1,080 hours for middle school teachers in the United States. The interesting result is that Finnish 15 year olds outperform their peers in other nations – at least, in terms of the PIS A results – despite the equivalent of three fewer years of schooling.

With all the changes we are proposing – and we are aware that they are radical changes, though not unprecedented except in scale – any education provider is certain to have one question rising above all others in their heads. Even if the suggested transformation is desirable, sensible and laudable, a key issue remains: is it affordable? In this section, we will attempt to answer that question.

In order to do so, we will offer examples of low-cost implementations of similar measures already in place. We will demonstrate the long-term view of “return on investment,” demonstrating that it is financially imprudent to carry on with things as they are, especially when there may be costs associated with falling behind as others move forward. We will argue that increased spending may be most wisely used in teacher training programmes. Finally, we will briefly discuss the issues of public vs. private education and the potential for establishing public-private partnerships to move towards this kind of transformed provision.

Cost of Existing Implementations

What do existing implementations of similar change cost? Not necessarily very much. A great deal of the necessary change can be accomplished through the refocussing or redistribution of existing resources. As an example, it is worth noting that all education jurisdictions spend large sums on professional development for educators: it costs nothing to shift what is being taught in these training sessions.

In his 2009 book The Money Myth, University of California, Berkeley professor W. Norton Grubb demonstrated that leadership, instruction, and policies for tracking student progress are more powerful factors in school performance than financial investment. Grubb showed only the weakest of correlations between fiscal resources and educational outcomes.

We will demonstrate the affordability of radical change using three exemplar implementations of change in Colombia, Mexico and Canada.

“Finnish education expert, Pasi Sahlberg, says the much lauded transformation of the Finnish education system came “at a reasonable cost.” So reasonable, in fact, that 98% of the cost of education at all levels is covered by government rather than by private sources.”

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