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A dozen countries spend a larger proportion of their wealth than the United States on public funds for education, according to a survey of the world's richest democracies.

Denmark and Finland topped the list, which ranked 20 countries by the percentage of national wealth spent on public funds for education. On this basis, the United States finished 13th; Canada was fourth; the United Kingdom 16th; Germany 18th; and Japan 20th.The survey was released Wednesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental agency in Paris that monitors the world's economies.

The OECD report, based on 1988 data, is the first to compare education systems among industrialized nations.

"We have never before had comparable database" because of the differences both in education systems and in methods of data collection, said Albert Tuijnmann of the OECD Secretariat.

The United States is behind eight other nations in overall spending, public and private, according to the report's charts of education spending that include only 20 of the OECD's 24 countries. The charts include no figures for Greece, Iceland, New Zealand and Turkey.

The countries were ranked by dividing a nation's public and private spending on education into the nation's gross domestic product - the value of its domestic goods and services.

Overall, the 20 countries spent an average of 4.8 percent of the GDPs in public funds on education, with 0.9 percent from private sources, the report said.

In public funding of education, the United States spent 5 percent of its income, while the leaders in this category, Denmark and Finland, each spent 6.8 percent. Japan was last among the industrialized countries at 3.8 percent.

With private funds added, Canada became the top spender at 7.2 percent of its GDP, followed by Denmark with 6.9 percent. The United States spent 5.7 percent of its GDP, which also was the average for all the countries combined.



Global education spending

Percentage of gross domestic product that each industrialized nation spent on education in 1988.

Japan 4.9%

Spain 5%

Germany 6.2%

Portugal 4.9%

UK 4.7%

Italy 4.8%

Australia 4.8%

United States 5.7%

France 5.7%

Switzerland 5.1%

Austria 5.6%

Sweden 5.7%

Ireland 6.2%

Luxembourg 6%

Belgium 6.1%

Netherlands 6.6%

Canada 7.2%

Norway 6.6%

Finland 6.8%

Denmark 6.9%