GEMS Education Solutions, a London-based education consultancy recently released the results of its analysis of 30 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, which combined spent $2.2 trillion on education.

The analysis, titled The Efficiency Index: Which education systems deliver the best value for the money?, looked at more than 60 government-funded inputs, such as technology, school materials, and building conditions. At #19, the United States ranked just ahead of Chile. To be optimally efficient, the U.S. would have to lower teacher salaries and increase class sizes to 17 students to match top-performing countries such as Finland and Korea.

According to Education Week, the study has limitations, including not accounting for differences in students’ backgrounds and other characteristics. However, says co-author Adam Still:

"We're not directly prescribing that these changes should be made," he said. Rather, it's a lens through which to evaluate education. He equated it to the concept as it applies in the automotive industry. "If it wasn't for the car industry striving for fuel efficiency, it wouldn't have innovated to produce hybrid cars. If you don't hold up a lens, maybe you don't find reasons to innovate," he said.

Considering efficiency in education is not a popular topic, and given the general lack of free-market forces operating on largely government-run schooling systems, it’s refreshing to see a study such as this be published.

It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that unlike the auto industry, where customers can choose their cars, and their preferences are taken seriously, in monopolistic schooling systems where parents are largely assigned to schools, there’s no incentive for schools to perform better.

Want to see improvements in school efficiency, understood in terms of higher achievement commensurate with higher education expenditures, then give all parents, regardless of income or address, full choice over their children’s schools.