European Neighbourhood Policy - South - education statistics

Data extracted in December 2019.

Planned article update: March 2021.


Relative to GDP, public expenditure on education in Morocco was similar to that in the EU, while in Israel the ratio was above the EU average and in Egypt it was below.

The proportion of people aged 30-34 years having completed tertiary education was higher in Israel (55 %) than in the EU (41 %).

Public expenditure on education as a share of GDP, 2007-2017

This article is part of an online publication and provides data on education statistics for eight of the countries that form the European Neighbourhood Policy-South (ENP-South) region — Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine [1] and Tunisia; no recent data are available for Libya or Syria. Recent developments for education statistics in these countries and in the European Union (EU) are presented. The article shows, among others, statistics on literacy rates, public expenditure on education, youth educational attainment and tertiary education.

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Public expenditure on education

Public expenditure on education as a share of GDP provides a measure of the relative importance given by governments to spending on education. Within the EU-28, the share of public expenditure on education during the period 2008-2014 was relatively stable, ranging from 4.9 % to 5.2 % (see Figure 1); the highest shares during this period were recorded towards the middle of the series, in 2009 and 2010, reflecting at least to some degree a reduction in overall economic activity due to the financial and economic crisis. The ratio of public expenditure relative to GDP fell below 4.9 % in the last three years for which data are available: in 2015 the ratio was 4.8 %, in 2016 it was 4.7 % and in 2017 it was 4.6 %.

Figure 1: Public expenditure on education, 2007-2017
(%, relative to GDP)
Source: Eurostat (gov_10a_exp)

In Israel, public spending on education was consistently higher than in the EU-28 when expressed as a share of GDP, while in Egypt the ratio was below the EU-28 average. Since 2009, Morocco has recorded a ratio that has been similar (within 0.2 percentage points) to that recorded in the EU-28.

Literacy rates

Across the world an estimated 773 million adults were unable to read or write in 2018, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, with women accounting for approximately three fifths (63 %) of this total. By contrast, practically 100 % of the adult population in the EU-28 is literate.

The information shown in Figure 2 indicates that female literacy rates were much lower than male literacy rates in some of the ENP-South countries. This was particularly true for those countries which had lower overall adult literacy rates, for example, Morocco (2016 data) and Egypt (2017 data).

Figure 2: Adult literacy rate, 2018
Source: Eurostat and UNESCO (

The highest adult literacy rates among ENP-South countries were recorded in Israel (99.0 % for men and 97.6 % for women in 2017). Literacy rates for Palestine and Jordan were also relatively high and above the world average for male and female rates.

Net enrolment rates

Net enrolment rates among the ENP-South countries for primary education (classified according to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level 1) were often close to 100 % (see Table 1). The lowest rate among those ENP-South countries for which data are available was recorded in Jordan (86.6 %). An average for the EU-28 is not available, however the rates for EU Member States in 2017 ranged from 83 % in Slovakia to 99 % in the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Denmark.

In most ENP-South countries, there were small differences between the sexes as regards the enrolment of boys and girls in primary education. In Egypt, the share of boys enrolled in primary education in 2017 was 3.5 percentage points lower than the corresponding share for girls (the biggest gender gap in favour of girls), while the only gap in favour of boys was a difference of 0.8 percentage points in Algeria (2015 data).

Table 1: Net enrolment rate by education level, 2018
Source: Eurostat

In each of the ENP-South countries for which data are available, a smaller proportion of children were enrolled in lower secondary education (ISCED level 2), which generally starts around the age of 11 or 12 and lasts for three to five years. The highest net enrolment rate for lower secondary education was recorded in Palestine (97.8 %). By contrast, the lowest rates were recorded in Morocco (2017 data), 58.1 % for boys and 56.4 % for girls.

Youth educational attainment

The share of the population aged 20-24 that attained at least an upper secondary educational level (ISCED level 3) — referred to as the youth education attainment level— was 83.5 % in the EU-28 in 2018; 81.0 % of men and 86.1 % of women aged 20-24 years had attained at least an upper secondary level of education (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Proportion of youths having attained at least an upper secondary education, 2018
(% of 20-24 year olds)
Source: Eurostat (edat_lfse_03)

Recent data for the ENP-South countries show that the highest rate of youth educational attainment for men was 90.6 % in Algeria (2015 data), while for women it was 94.4 % in Israel (2017 data). The rates for women in Algeria and for men in Israel were also higher than the equivalent rates recorded across the EU-28. Among the remaining ENP-South countries for which data are available, the level of youth educational attainment was consistently lower than the EU-28 average both for men and for women. Palestine recorded the biggest gender gap (10.9 percentage points) in favour of young women for this level of educational attainment in 2018, while Morocco recorded the biggest gap (4.1 points; 2016 data) in favour of young men.

Table 2: Proportion of youths having attained at least an upper secondary education, 2008, 2013 and 2018
(% of 20-24 year olds)
Source: Eurostat (edat_lfse_03)

Tertiary education

As shown in Figure 4, two fifths (40.7 %) of the EU-28’s population aged 30-34 in 2018 had completed tertiary education (ISCED levels 5-8). Across the three ENP-South countries for which recent data are available, a higher proportion (54.9 %; 2017 data) of the population aged 30-34 in Israel had completed tertiary education than was the case in the EU-28. By contrast, in Palestine around one third (33.7 %) and in Egypt around one fifth (20.6 %) of the population aged 30-34 had completed tertiary education.

Figure 4: Proportion of people aged 30-34 years having completed tertiary education, 2018
Source: Eurostat (edat_lfse_03)

Figure 5 shows that in the EU-28, the ratio of male graduates in science and technology relative to the (male) population aged 20-29 years in 2017 was close to double the equivalent ratio for women. By contrast, the gender gap in Palestine was much smaller in 2018; this reflected, at least in part, the relatively high share of women who enrolled in tertiary education in Palestine. In Israel (2017 data) and Egypt (2016 data), the gender gap was, in relative terms, similar to that in the EU-28. In all three ENP-South countries for which data are available, the ratios for men and for women were considerably lower than in the EU-28.

Figure 5: Number of tertiary graduates in science and technology relative to the size of the population aged 20-29 years, 2018
(per 1 000 male / female inhabitants aged 20-29)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_grad02) and (demo_pjangroup)

Data sources

The data for ENP-South countries are supplied by and under the responsibility of the national statistical authorities of each country on a voluntary basis. The data that are presented in this article result from an annual data collection cycle that has been established by Eurostat. No recent data are available from either Libya or Syria. These statistics are available free-of-charge on Eurostat’s website, together with a range of different indicators covering most socio-economic areas.

Education statistics cover a range of subjects, including: expenditure, personnel, participation and attainment. The standards for international statistics on education are set by three organisations:

The main source of data for the EU-28 aggregate is a joint UNESCO/OECD/Eurostat (UOE) questionnaire on education systems and this is the basis for the core components of the Eurostat database on education statistics; Eurostat also collects data on regional enrolments and foreign language learning. EU-28 data on educational attainment are mainly provided through household surveys, in particular the EU [[Glossary:Labour force survey (LFS)|labour force survey (LFS)]].

Note that the collection of data on education underwent a considerable change as a result of the introduction of a new version of ISCED, namely ISCED 2011, replacing ISCED 1997. Longer time series are generally available on the basis of ISCED 1997, while data for the EU-28 and its Member States are often available on the basis of ISCED 2011 from the 2014 reference period.

Tables in this article use the following notation:

Value in italics     data value is forecasted, provisional or estimated and is therefore likely to change;
: not available, confidential or unreliable value;
not applicable.


Each EU Member State is responsible for its own education and training systems. As such, EU policy in this area is designed to support national action and address common challenges, by providing a forum for exchanging best practices. Through the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (known as ET 2020), which was adopted by the Council in May 2009, EU Member States identified four common objectives for 2020: making lifelong learning and mobility a reality; improving the quality and efficiency of education and training; promoting equity, social cohesion, and active citizenship; and enhancing creativity and innovation, including entrepreneurship, at all levels of education and training. The strategy sets a number of benchmarks in relation to education that are to be achieved by 2020, including:

  • at least 95 % of children between the age of four and the age for starting compulsory primary education should participate in early childhood education;
  • the share of early leavers from education and training should be less than 10 %;
  • the share of low-achieving 15-year olds in reading, mathematics and science should be less than 15 %;
  • the share of 30-34 year olds with tertiary educational attainment should be at least 40 %.

In 2014, progress was assessed and priorities were reviewed: as a result, in November 2015 the Council adopted a set of six new priorities for the period 2016-2020 based on a joint report (2015/C 417/04) from the European Commission and the EU Member States.

On 18 November 2015, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission jointly presented a review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (SWD(2015) 500 final) which underlined a new approach for the EU in relation to its eastern and southern neighbours, based on stabilising the region in political, economic, and security-related terms.

In cooperation with its ENP partners, Eurostat has the responsibility ‘to promote and implement the use of European and internationally recognised standards and methodology for the production of statistics, necessary for developing and monitoring policy achievements in all policy areas’. Eurostat undertakes the task of coordinating EU efforts to increase the statistical capacity of the ENP countries. Additional information on the policy context of the ENP is provided here.


  1. This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.
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