17.9 billion reasons

Mind if we do a few sums? Let’s start with some statistics.

  • In Australia, there are approximately 180 school days in a year.
  • The average salary for a school teacher is approximately AUD$65,000 ($68,000 for high school and $63,000 for primary).
  • There are approximately 276,000 teachers (full-time-equivalent) in about 9,480 schools (primary and secondary).

So here we go with the maths…

On average:

  • Each school has 29 teachers (276,000 teachers ÷ 9,480 schools = 29)
  • A teacher’s daily salary is $361 ($65,000 ÷ 180 working days)
  • Each school pays $10,469 per day in salaries (29 teachers x $361 daily rate)

interesting…but wait for this…

Overall, Australian schools spend a tick under 100 million dollars per day on salaries alone! Check the sums: 276,000 x 361 = $99,636,000. Then you multiply that number by 180 teaching days and we get the annual figure of $17,934,480,000. Yep, that’s 17.9 billion dollars on teacher salaries. And that includes neither the money spent by schools on normal operations, such as maintenance, construction, supplies, energy; nor related peripheral costs such as money spent on fuel driving kids to school.

The total number is hard to calculate but the annual amount spent on the Australian school system may well come close to the country’s total yearly military expenditure of around $35 billion (which is the 13th highest in the world).

So what? Why does this matter?

Well, if, as a country, we’re going to spend somewhere in the vicinity of $20-30 billion a year on a system, it better be good. If we’re going to all this effort of bringing together five million people (teachers, students, support staff) across 9,480 schools every day, it better be a damn good system.

And this is the reason why we have to continue to ask hard questions. This is the reason why it’s not okay to simply accept the status quo. This is the reason why we must be courageous in challenging broken parts of the system. This is the reason why we cannot tolerate any teaching that is not highly professional, prepared, engaged, focussed, and enthusiastic.

This is reason why we have to remain curious and always open to the possibility that there is a better way.

Published by

David Bott

Hi, I'm David Bott, Associate Director of the Institute of Positive Education in Australia.

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