Literacy, Spending and the Achievement Gap between South Carolina and Eritrea

While 46 cents per dollar spent on classroom instruction, the 54 cents goes …??? Third-world style corruption?
In U.S. 46 cents per dollar spent on classroom instruction, but 54 cents goes …??? Third-world style corruption?

By TesfaNews,

One would have been considered silly if trying to put a comparison between the literacy rate in the U.S. and a third world country.  But for the parents, community members and law makers of Allendale, McCormick, Williamsburg, South Carolina, Clarendon and Lee Counties, it was more than sensible.

Despite the size and scope of public spending on schools in South Carolina alone, the illiteracy and under-literacy that run rampant throughout their entire public school system was shocking. 

As Diette Courrégé wrote on the Post and Courier about the state of the school system in South Carolina, she finds out that the “Test scores show 20 percent of rising 9th-graders read at or below 4th-grade level. 

To help us put the magnitude of the statewide problem in to context, we need to put the literacy rate in comparison with one poor but self-reliant third world country called Eritrea.


According to the Budget and Control Board, South Carolina spends $3.2 billion in state money on K-12 education in 2009 alone.

This makes state spending on South Carolina’s public school system equivalent to the entire GDP of Eritrea, a country of 6 million with an average life expectancy of 60 years each and a per-capita income of $1,000, located in northeastern Africa.

On the other hand, South Carolina’s public schools were home to 694,642 students, with per-pupil spending averaging $11,480 (2009).

The irony is while students in Eritrean schools receive an average of five years of classroom instruction and only spend 45% of the $3.2 billion GDP on Education, their adult literacy rate in 2009 was 58.6 percent – or roughly the same as the adult literacy in South Carolina, Allendale, McCormick, Williamsburg, Clarendon and Lee Counties.

The Eritrea – South Carolina case, therefore, can be an excellent example that defies logic and long held understanding on the relationship between per pupil spending and literacy rates. Is it no more? Very strange!


Referenced from “The Voice for School Choice