Sunday

17th Feb 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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

Future of Europe needs more social investment

The Rome declaration committed to a more social Europe, but the EU's economic governance model is preventing the pledges made in the Italian capital from being truly realised.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us