Monday

26th Jun 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

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.

EU 'rebrands' youth corps

The European Commission proposes a €341-million budget to get unemployed people into volunteering activities or traineeships that “promote solidarity” in their own countries or abroad.

In cooperation with

News in Brief

  1. Merkel on collision course with US at G20 summit
  2. Schulz outlines German election strategy, hits out at Merkel
  3. Berlusconi's party sees comeback in Italian local votes
  4. Low turnout in Albanian election set to mandate EU future
  5. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  6. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  7. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  8. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan Statin Therapy Interfere With a Physically Active Lifestyle?
  3. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  4. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  5. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  6. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  7. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  8. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  9. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  10. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  11. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  12. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?

Latest News

  1. UK previews offer on EU nationals' rights
  2. EU approves rescue of Italian banks
  3. Cohesion policy for a stronger Europe
  4. Cheap meat is a bigger problem for climate and health
  5. Ministers to reject minimum parking spaces for electric cars
  6. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  7. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  8. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  2. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move
  3. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  4. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  6. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  7. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  8. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  9. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days
  10. ILGA-EuropeLGBTI Activists and Businesses Fighting Inequality Together
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Prime Ministers Respond to Trump on Paris Agreement