HC Deb 10 November 1961 vol 648 cc99-100W
Sir A. Hurd

asked the Minister of Education to what extent the information his Department supplied to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation for the purposes of the International Year Book of Education, 1960, particularly the table which shows the amount of public expenditure per head of population devoted to education in Great Britain at a much lower figure than in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United States of America, Canada and many other countries, was on a comparable basis with information supplied by other countries; and if he will make a statement.

Sir D. Eccles

I am not able to say how far the figures are comparable. Such comparisons are very complex. From the experience of similar exercises of this type in the past, it is apparent that the returns from different countries may vary in respect of the inclusion or exclusion of such items as university education, cultural activities, educational welfare services and capital expenditure met by loan.

For the countries mentioned in my hon. Friend's question the figures in the International Year Book of Education 1960, which relate to public expenditure on education per head of the population, are expressed in terms of U.S. Dollars, after conversion from the original currencies, as follows: —

Year Dollars
1957–8 England and Wales 36
1958–9 Northern Ireland 34
1957–8 Scotland 53
1957 Canada 58
1957–8 U.S.A. 92
1960 U.S.S.R. 120

The figure for the U.S.S.R. is based on the artificially high rate of exchange of four roubles to the dollar, which has now been adjusted by the Soviet Government to nine roubles to the dollar. If the new rate of exchange is applied, the U.S.S.R. figure, which it will be noted is for a period three years later than the rest, becomes 53 dollars per head.

The money expenditures converted at official exchange rates do not provide a direct comparison of the volume of real resources devoted to education, since they do not reflect accurately the different internal purchasing powers of the various currencies.

Moreover expenditure per head of the population may not be the most significant way of making these international comparisons. The proportion of the Gross National Product devoted to education may in many respects be a better one. A more comprehensive comparative study is I understand soon to be published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development following the recent Conference in Washington on Economic Growth and Investment in Education. This should carry the study of the subject a useful stage further.