Conservatives are eager to destroy public education, to complete their plan to dismantle the New Deal and to further enrich the 1%.  Their favorite stratagem is to blame public schools for failures of education in poor communities.

But let’s look at the facts. Internationally, do the nations with the best school systems have public schools or private schools?

According to a report by the Economist, quoted in an article in the Huffington Post, the countries with the best education systems are, in order:

  1. Finland: 99% public
  2. South Korea, 77.8% public
  3. Hong Kong, public
  4. Japan: 90% public
  5. Singapore, public
  6. UK, 77.9%, mostly public
  7. Netherlands
  8. New Zealand, 85.7% public
  9. Switzerland, 86.9% public
  10. Canada, mostly public
  11. Ireland
  12. Denmark
  13. Australia
  14. Poland
  15. Germany
  16. Belgium
  17. USA

OECD publishes voluminous tables and charts with statistics about education funding.   According to Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators (p 243) and restricting the discussion to primary and secondary schools, Finnish schools are 99% publicly funded; while  Japanese schools are 90% publicly funded.  The percentages shown above are from this table.

The issue is complicated, because for some countries public subsidies to private schools are included in the expenditures counted as public.

Also, in many countries in Asia (including Korea, Japan, and Singapore), many students attend both a public school, during the day, and private tutoring schools in the evening.

Finland is said to have the best schools in the world, and teachers there are paid the same as doctors, as reported in the book on Finland’s education system, Finnish Lessons. Additionally, they have few standardized tests, and long recesses.

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