Thursday

30th Mar 2017

Focus

Europe lags on education investment

  • A classroom in Romania. Early education can improve the future performance of students and develop their social and emotional skills.

When it comes to education, Europe is still fragmented, with different school systems, lack of investment and inequalities in terms of access to the labour market, an international study shows.

"There is a wide scale of divergence" among member states, EU education commissioner Tibor Navracsics noted after the publication of the OECD's new Education at a Glance report.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The OECD, a Paris-based club of mostly wealthy nations, studied the education system in its 35 members, including 22 EU countries. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Malta and Romania are not OECD members.

"There are poor counties, there are rich countries. There are countries where the education system performs quite well and countries where there is a stalemate, " Navracsics said.

According to the report, 17 percent of 20-24 year-olds in the EU are what some call NEETs, which stands for “neither employed nor in education or training”.


This is more that in 2005, before the financial crisis, when the figure was 16 percent. "The share of NEETs ranges from a high of over 25 percent in Greece, Italy and Spain to less than 10 percent in Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands," the report notes.

In the EU22, young adults who have dropped out of education face unemployment rate three times higher than normal, OECD's secretary general, Angel Gurria, said while presenting the report in Brussels last week.

One of the most important steps to avoid school dropouts and unemployed people is to develop early childhood education.

"It can improve the future performance of students and develop their social and emotional skills," the OECD says, while noting that "early childhood education is almost universal in EU22 countries". 


In average, in 2014, 77 percent of 3-year olds were in early childhood educational development programmes or pre-primary education, compared to 71 percent in the whole of the OECD.

Gender segregation

At the end of the education cycle, the OECD sees a persistent gender gap in employment and salaries.

Among people who did not complete upper secondary education in the EU22, the organisation noted, the employment rate is 18 percentage points higher for men than for women.

Women with higher education do better.

But, on average, even women with undergraduate degrees earn 26 percent less than their male counterparts.

Part of the problem is becase "the fields of study that young women and men choose tend to perpetuate gender segregation in the labour market," the OECD points out.


Women are over-represented in education, health and welfare, but under-represented in sciences and engineering.

Teaching jobs are badly paid, but there are skills shortages in science and engineering, as well as better wages and career opportunities.

Zooming in on the teaching sector, the OECD noted that salaries either fell or, in some countries, stayed more or less the same in real terms between 2005 and 2014.

Far from UN targets

"Investment to reduce class sizes have consumed resources which could be better spent on recruiting and rewarding high quality teachers," Gurria said.

He said that high performing education systems should "systematically prioritise the quality of the teachers rather than the size of the classes."

But investment, or lack of investment, is one of the main problems in European education.

"Unfortunately member states have been lagging behind or stagnating for 10 years in investment in education," Navracsics said.

He said education remains an exclusive power of member states, but that the EU Commission helps in funding the construction or modernisation of schools.

Differences in investment in education are highlighted by EU countries' performance on reaching the UN sustainable development goals.

Twelve of OECD's 35 members, and only six European countries meet the benchmark levels in at least five of the 10 education targets set by the UN.

The benchmarks include goals such as giving access to education to all children by 2030, or elimination of illiteracy and gender inequalities.

Small countries do better

Belgium and Netherlands are doing the best, but Germany, France and the UK each meet fewer than five benchmarks.

"Countries which started early," are now ahead, Gurria observed, adding that "it's a question of how much is invested, where it is invested, and a question of priorities."

He said that countries like Belgium and Netherlands, which are "small, open economies, [and] don’t set rules in terms of standards … have to get their competitive advantage by having a skilled workforce and the necessary responses to the market opportunities and the market demands."

"Larger economies will feel perhaps a little more comfortable, they don't have to be on their toes all the time," he added.

For the future, one of the main challenges for EU countries will be the integration of migrants in the education system and then the job market.

Navracsics pointed out that 29 percent of the people who sought asylum in Europe in 2015 were under 18.

Given their previous living conditions, this represented "a huge influx of people with very poor education background," he said, adding that "education can be most the efficient platform to integrate."

Education inequalities remain high in EU

Less people leave school prematurely, but socio-economic status, immigrant background and gender are still factors of underachievement, a commission report says.

EU states must act on youth poverty

Campaigners say young Europeans need better quality jobs and contracts, after a UN agency documents how hundreds of thousands of young workers risk living in poverty.

University rankings reveal two-speed Europe

British, German and Dutch institutions do very well in the latest university rankings, with Oxford named the world's best. But the French and much of the rest of the EU are lagging behind.

Opinion

The 89ers and the battle against populism

It falls to the Europeans who were born around 1989 and grew up in a peaceful Europe to build a fresh new vision for the EU that transcends the ideological, educational and national cleavages of the past.

In cooperation with

News in Brief

  1. UK publishes 'Great Repeal Bill' plan to replace EU laws
  2. Scots share May's vision for Brexit deal, survey says
  3. Coalition talks leader expects Dutch government by summer
  4. EU commission allows ex-member Hill to join law firm
  5. Reuters: Greece and lenders move closer to deal
  6. Italy: Le Pen win would mean 'permanent political risk'
  7. Danish parliament misinformed on Nord Stream 1
  8. UK delivered its Article 50 letter to the EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  2. The Idealist QuarterlyCan Progressive Stories Survive Our Post-Truth Era? After-Work Discussion on 6 April
  3. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  4. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  5. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  6. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  7. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  9. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  10. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  11. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy

Latest News

  1. Hungary attempts to stifle Soros-founded university in Budapest
  2. European right shows divisions on EU values after Brexit
  3. Transparency is key EU tactic in Brexit talks
  4. Russia building 'arc of iron' around Europe
  5. Französische und deutsche Wahlen 'entscheidend' für Putin
  6. EU trying to salvage US deal on data privacy
  7. MEPs draw 'red lines' on Brexit deal
  8. MEPs call for reset in relations with Belarus

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  2. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  3. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  5. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted
  6. UNICEFSyria Conflict 6 Years On: Children's Suffering at Its Worst
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsDomestic Violence in Tajikistan: Time to Right the Wrongs
  8. European Trust SummitCorporate Strategy and Public Affairs in a Low-Trust World - Conference 31 May
  9. Malta EU 2017Agreement Reached to Involve Consumers in Financial Services Policymaking
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cities Gather Against Violent Extremism & Introduce Nordic Safe Cities
  11. World VisionFears and Dreams of Syria's Children and Their Peers Around the World
  12. Mission of China to the EUEU Window Chinese Government Academic Scholarship 2017/18 - Apply Now