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EU education report: good progress, but more effort needed to achieve targets
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EU countries have improved their education systems in key areas over the past decade but have achieved only one out of five benchmarks set for 2010, according to a new progress report on education and training by the European Commission.

The EU has succeeded in its target to increase the number of maths, science and technology graduates, with a 37% rise since 2000 – easily outstripping the target of 15%.  The UK saw a growth of 17.8 per cent.  But insignificant progress was made on reducing the school drop-out rate, increasing the number of pupils completing upper secondary education, improving reading literacy skills and increasing the share of adults participating in education or training.

Androulla Vassiliou, the Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "The good news is that education levels in Europe have risen considerably. More young people complete secondary education and graduate from higher education compared to ten years ago. But early school leaving continues to be a problem that affects one in seven young people in the European Union and one in five pupils still have poor reading skills at the age of 15. That is why education and training are among the core objectives of Europe 2020. We need further efforts from member states to reach our joint European targets."

The Commissioner strongly urged member states not to make cuts in education budgets despite the constraints they face due to the economic crisis.

"Spending on education is a good investment for jobs and economic growth and in the long term pays for itself. But in times of budgetary pressures we also have to ensure that resources are used as efficiently as possible," she added.

    EU education report: good progress, but more effort needed to achieve targets

    Next steps
    In the coming weeks member states will submit their national reform programmes to the Commission, in which they will set national targets on early school leaving and higher education graduates, spelling out how they want to achieve their goals and new benchmarks on employability and learning mobility will soon be proposed by the Commission.

    Key results
    In the annual report on indicators and benchmarks, the Commission analyses member states' performance against these targets, while also reviewing how countries have performed in relation to an earlier set of benchmarks agreed for 2010.

    • 2020 benchmarks: although it is too early for precise projections, past trends suggest that most of the benchmarks for 2020 should be attainable if member states continue to give them high priority and invest efficiently in education and training. This is true, in particular, for the two education headline targets on early school leaving and graduates.
    • 2010 benchmarks: EU countries have made progress but only achieved the target on the number of graduates in maths, science and technology. (Full data for 2010 will be available early next year).
    • Participation and attainment: since 2000, overall participation in education has increased as well as the qualification levels of adults. The share of children in pre-primary education has risen as well.
    • Gender gaps remain significant both in performance and in choice of subjects. For instance, girls outperform boys in reading, and boys account for most early school leavers. Men outnumber women among graduates in maths, science and technology subjects.

    The report, which covers all EU member states, plus Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Turkey, Norway and Liechtenstein, contains overviews and detailed statistics identifying which countries perform above or below the EU average and which are catching up or falling behind compared to the others.

    Five education benchmarks for 2020 compared to best EU performers and UK data
    In 2009, EU education ministers agreed on five education and training benchmarks to be attained by 2020: 

    • the share of early leavers from education and training should be less than 10% (based on the current rate of 14.4% this would mean at least 1.7 million fewer school drop-outs).  Best EU performers are Poland (5.3 per cent), Czech Republic (5.4 per cent) and Slovakia (4.9 per cent).  The UK's share is down to 15.7 per cent, from 17 per cent in 2008.
    • the share of 30-34 year olds with tertiary educational attainment should be at least 40% (at the current rate of 32.3% this would mean an additional 2.6 million graduates).  The best EU performers are Ireland (49 per cent), Denmark (48.1 per cent) and Luxembourg (40.6 per cent).  The United Kingdom's share rose from 39.7 per cent in 2006 to 41.5 per cent in 2009).
    • at least 95% of children between the age of four and the age for starting compulsory primary education should participate in early childhood education (now 92.3%, achieving this target would mean 250,000 more young children in education). 
      France (100 per cent), Spain (99 per cent), Belgium/the Netherlands (99.5 per cent), Italy (98.8 per cent) and the United Kingdom (97.3 per cent) have the highest participation rates.
    • the share of 15-years olds with insufficient abilities in reading, mathematics and science should be less than 15% (from around 20% for all three now. Achieving the target would mean 250 000 fewer low achievers).  Best EU performers are Finland (8.1 per cent), the Netherlands (14.3 per cent) and Estonia (13.3 per cent).  The United Kingdom improved from 19 per cent in 2006 to 18.4 per cent in 2009.
    • an average of at least 15% of adults (age group 25-64) should participate in lifelong learning (current share is 9.3%. Achieving the target would mean 15 million more adults in education and training). The best EU performers are Denmark (31.6 per cent), Sweden (22.2 per cent) and Finland (22.1 per cent).  The United Kingdom stands at 20.1 per cent.


    For more information, please contact the London press office on 020 7973 1971.
    Please note: all amounts expressed in sterling are for information purposes only.

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    Last update: 19/04/2011  |Top