Government Education Spending vs. PISA Test Results

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Government Education Spending vs. PISA Test Results

Can government investment in education actually have a significant impact on the education system and student outcomes? 

The PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test is an international standardized test that measures the academic performance of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, and science, assessing students’ ability to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems and situations. The test provides policymakers and educators with information about how their education systems compare with those in other countries and identifies areas for improvement. 

Why should we care about it? How far beyond their traditional classroom education can high-achieving high school students possibly reach? Understanding the skills of students across different nations is an important step. Over the past 11 years, 5,657 students thrived through Pioneer’s rigorous and college-level research standards. It proved that government-backed education is key in laying the academic foundation, and individual students’ effort results in going above and beyond basic education. 

Pioneer Academics and the PISA test share common values in promoting intellectual curiosity, global perspectives, and assessment for improvement. 

In alignment with our global mission, we analyzed the PISA test scores of 10 countries in relation to their educational investments for K-12 to determine if there was a correlation between the two. Our findings revealed the following:

Government Education Spending

United States

Education in America is of paramount importance, as it serves as the foundation for individual success, social mobility, and the nation’s economic prosperity. The United States government has allotted 13.40% of its total government spending on education investment. With American students scoring an overall PISA score of 495, it is apparent that the educational investment has been rewarding.


The German educational system focuses on developing critical thinking skills, independence in taking responsibility for their own learning process, and creative problem-solving. This environment promotes one’s individualistic approach to learning. The German government also allotted 11% of its total government spending to K-12 Education, which may have helped result in the overall PISA score of 500.


In Japan, you often see students going to cram schools and doing mock exams after regular school hours. This is due to a shift in the understanding of what education is in their culture. 

In 1983, Japan dramatically converted the philosophy from “complete education” to “lifelong learning.” 

With this educational reinforcement and 8.40% of total government expenditure allotted to education, the quality of education rose, as well as the output of the students. With the 2nd highest score in our list of 520, we can see how a shift in ideals and government focus can affect one’s educational achievements.


China is the most populous country in the world and has a very high regard for education, which is why the government allotted more than 12.60% of its total expenditure to honing the minds of its K-12 population. In Chinese tradition, education is regarded as a top priority, and academic achievement as one of the hallmarks of Chinese civilization. With the highest PISA score of 578.7, we can see the results of how seriously China takes educational funding and high test scores for its students.


In Brazil, school is free and compulsory for students at the primary and secondary levels, but roughly three-fifths of Brazilians have only four years of schooling or less. Factoring in cultural and economic factors may explain the lower overall PISA score is 400.3. There has, however, been a push by the government to up the current rating of education in the country since 2000, which explains the rise of their government expenditure on education to 16.50%. With a serious investment increase, Brazil hopes to make a change that may very well reflect on their next PISA scores. 


You might think less time in the classroom might be bad for test scores. Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours at school each day with minimal homework. Finland has one of the highest-quality education systems in the world, and their overall PISA score of 516.3 shows it. The state also fully trusts school leaders and teachers in developing their students. With this trust comes funding of 11.90% of total government expenditure. This serves as a good argument for factors outside of investment, including classroom culture.  

Saudi Arabia

While the study of Islam remains at its center, the modern Saudi educational system provides its students with quality instruction in different subjects and fields. This diversity helps the country prepare its students to compete in the global economy. Education is a requirement for every Muslim, both male, and female. Their government expenditure allotted to K-12 education alone should help boost the student results and subsequent scores up from their 386 in the most recent results.

United Kingdom

When talking about the United Kingdom, A Levels come to mind. A-Levels (Advanced Level qualifications) are a UK subject-based qualification for students aged 16 and above. Due to this upcoming qualification, students take a considerable amount of time and preparation to pass them. Additionally, the UK has a total government expenditure of 14.20% allotted for education. With the funding and expectations of tougher academic standards, it makes sense that students got a high overall PISA score of 504.


One of the big highlights of the Australian education system is that it is personalized and equitable. This means everyone is given the opportunity to go to school, whatever the socioeconomic or geographical situation they might be in. This added support, as well as a 13.60% total government expenditure, can be seen in the high overall PISA score of 499. Pioneer Academics shares a similar value of transcending socioeconomic, geographical and other barriers to academic achievement.


Currently, the funding given to K-12 education is 13.20% of total government expenditure. Factoring in the lack of teachers and classrooms, students have to work harder to get the grades to excel. Despite the low score of 350, the Philippines has set up a unique, multilingual instructional system, a unique effort to set up a global edge for rising students to gain additional opportunities.


Based on our comparison, we can deduce that education investment can lead to improved infrastructure, better teacher training, increased access to education, and improved curriculum and standards. This investment can result in a better learning environment for students, more qualified and effective teachers, improved educational opportunities for marginalized and disadvantaged populations, and a higher-quality education for all. But, there are many additional factors to consider and the total amount of investment alone can not account for the cultural, methodological, and other factors that may affect the overall student performance.

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