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

European Commission - IP/11/488   19/04/2011

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IP/11/488

Brussels, 19 April 2011

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

Brussels, 19 April - EU countries have improved their education systems in key areas over the past decade but they have achieved only one out of five benchmarks set for 2010, the European Commission's new progress report on education and training reveals today. 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%. Significant, but insufficient, 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. For a detailed breakdown of the figures for each country, see annex below. The Europe 2020 jobs and growth strategy retains the target of reducing the school drop-out rate to under 10%, as well as increasing the share of graduates to at least 40%.

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 is strongly urging 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.

Five education benchmarks for 2020

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);

  • 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);

  • 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 over 250 000 more young children in education);

  • 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);

  • 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).

Annual report on progress towards the benchmarks

In its 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.

Key results

  • 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.

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. The Commission will soon present proposed new benchmarks on employability and learning mobility.

To find out more:

Link to MEMO/11/253

Full Commission report

"Progress towards the Lisbon objectives in education and training - Indicators and benchmarks, 2010/11"

Leaflet: Education benchmarks for Europe [with country-specific data]

European Commission:

European strategy and co-operation in education and training:

ANNEX

Progress towards the 2010 education benchmarks, Evolution 2000-2009

Progress towards the 2020 education benchmarks, Evolution 2000-2009

1. Pre-school participation

Benchmark 2020: By 2020 at least 95% of children between 4 years old and the starting age of compulsory education should participate in early childhood education.

Trends: Pre-school participation increased by more than 6 percentage points since 2000. France. Belgium. The Netherlands, Italy and Spain have the highest participation rates.

Best EU performers: Belgium, France, Netherlands

2000

2007

2008

EU 27

85.6

90.7

92.3

Belgium

99.1

99.7

99.5

Bulgaria

73.4

79.8

78.4

Czech Rep.

90.0

92.6

90.9

Denmark

95.7

92.7

91.8

Germany

82.6

94.5

95.6

Estonia

87.0

93.6

95.1

Ireland

74.6

71.7

72.0

Greece

69.3

68.2

:

Spain

100

98.1

99.0

France

100

100

100

Italy

100

99.3

98.8

Cyprus

64.7

84.7

88.5

Latvia

65.4

88.2

88.9

Lithuania

60.6

76.6

77.8

Luxembourg

94.7

93.9

94.3

Hungary

93.9

95.1

94.6

Malta

100

98.8

97.8

Netherlands

99.5

98.9

99.5

Austria

84.6

88.8

90.3

Poland

58.3

66.8

67.5

Portugal

78.9

86.7

87.0

Romania

67.6

81.8

82.8

Slovenia

85.2

89.2

90.4

Slovakia

76.1

79.4

79.1

Finland

55.2

69.8

70.9

Sweden

83.6

94.0

94.6

UK

100

90.7

97.3

Croatia

:

65.2

68.0

Iceland

91.8

95.4

96.2

MK*

17.4

26.1

28.5

Turkey

11.6

26.7

34.4

Liechtenstein

69.3

84.5

83.2

Norway

79.7

94.3

95.6

Source: Eurostat (LFS) Top performers low performers. b = break in series. p = provisional. (01) = 2001. (02) = 2002.

*MK = former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

2. Low achievers

Benchmark 2010/2020: By 2010 the share of low achievers in reading should decrease by 20% (to 17%). By 2020 the share of low achievers in reading, maths and science should be less than 15%.

Trends: In the EU (comparable data available for 18 countries) performance improved from 21.3% low performers in reading in 2000 to 20.0% (girls: 13.3%, boys: 26.6%) in 2009.

Best EU performers: Finland, the Netherlands and Estonia

2000

2006

2009

EU (18)

21.3

24.1

20.0

Belgium

19.0

19.4

17.7

Bulgaria

40.3

51.1

41.0

Czech Rep.

17.5

24.8

23.1

Denmark

17.9

16.0

15.2

Germany

22.6

20.0

18.5

Estonia

:

13.6

13.3

Ireland

11.0

12.1

17.2

Greece

24.4

27.7

21.3

Spain

16.3

25.7

19.6

France

15.2

21.7

19.8

Italy

18.9

26.4

21.0

Cyprus

:

:

:

Latvia

30.1

21.2

17.6

Lithuania

:

25.7

24.3

Luxembourg

(35.1)

22.9

26.0

Hungary

22.7

20.6

17.6

Malta

:

:

:

Netherlands

(9.5)

15.1

14.3

Austria

19.3

21.5

27.5

Poland

23.2

16.2

15.0

Portugal

26.3

24.9

17.6

Romania

41.3

53.5

40.4

Slovenia

:

16.5

21.2

Slovakia

:

27.8

22.3

Finland

7.0

4.8

8.1

Sweden

12.6

15.3

17.4

UK

(12.8)

19.0

18.4

Croatia

:

21.5

22.5

Iceland

14.5

20.5

16.8

Turkey

:

32.2

24.5

Liechtenstein

22.1

14.3

15.6

Norway

17.5

22.4

14.9

Source: OECD (PISA) Top performers low performers ( ) = not comparable.

Cyprus and Malta have not yet participated in the survey. EU result: for 18 countries with comparable data.

*MK = former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

3. Early school leavers

Benchmark 2010/2020 (also EU 2020 headline target): By 2010/2020 a share of early school leavers of no more than 10% should be reached.

Trends: In EU 27 the share of early school leavers (population 18-24) declined from 17.6% in 2000 to 14.4% in 2009 (females: 12.5%. males: 16.3%).

Best EU performers: Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia

2000

2008

2009

EU 27

17.6

14.9

14.4

Belgium

13.8

12.0

11.1

Bulgaria

20.5 (01)

14.8

14.7

Czech Rep.

5.7 (02)

5.6

5.4

Denmark

11.7

11.5

10.6

Germany

14.6

11.8

11.1

Estonia

15.1

14.0

13.9

Ireland

14.6 (02)

11.3

11.3

Greece

18.2

14.8

14.5

Spain

29.1

31.9

31.2

France

13.3

11.9

12.3

Italy

25.1

19.7

19.2

Cyprus

18.5

13.7

11.7

Latvia

16.9(02)

15.5

13.9

Lithuania

16.5

7.4

8.7

Luxembourg

16.8

13.4

7.7

Hungary

13.9

11.7

11.2

Malta

54.2

39

36.8

Netherlands

15.4

11.4

10.9

Austria

10.2

10.1

8.7

Poland

7.4 (01)

5.0

5.3

Portugal

43.6

35.4

31.2

Romania

22.9

15.9

16.6

Slovenia

6.4 (01)

5.1u

5.3u

Slovakia

6.7 (02)

6.0

4.9

Finland

9.0

9.8

9.9

Sweden

7.3

12.2

10.7

UK

18.2

17.0

15.7

Croatia

8.0 (02)

3.7 u

3.9 u

Iceland

29.8

24.4

21.4

MK*

n/a

19.6

16.2

Turkey

59.3

45.5

44.3

Norway

12.9

17.0

17.6

Source: Eurostat (LFS) Top performers low performers. b = break in series. p = provisional. u= unreliable, (01) = 2001. (02)= 2002.

*MK = former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

4. Youth education attainment

Benchmark 2010: By 2010 at least 85% of 22 year-olds in the EU should have should have completed upper-secondary education.

Trends: Since 2000 upper secondary attainment in the EU increased slightly from 76.6% of people aged 20-24 to 78.6 in 2009 (females 81.4%. males 75.9%).

Best EU performers: Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland

2000

2008

2009

EU 27

76.6

78.4

78.6

Belgium

81.7

82.2

83.3

Bulgaria

75.2

83.7

83.7

Czech Rep.

91.2

91.6

91.9

Denmark

72.0

71.0

70.1

Germany

74.7

74.1

73.7

Estonia

79.0

82.2

82.3

Ireland

82.6

87.7

87.0

Greece

79.2

82.1

82.2

Spain

66.0

60.0

59.9

France

81.6

83.4

83.6

Italy

69.4

76.5

76.3

Cyprus

79.0

85.1

87.4

Latvia

76.5

80.0

80.5

Lithuania

78.9

89.1

86.9

Luxembourg

77.5

72.8

76.8

Hungary

83.5

83.6

84.0

Malta

40.9

53.0

52.1

Netherlands

71.9

76.2

76.6

Austria

85.1

84.5

86.0

Poland

88.8

91.3

91.3

Portugal

43.2

54.3

55.5

Romania

76.1

78.3

78.3

Slovenia

88.0

90.2

89.4

Slovakia

94.8

92.3

93.3

Finland

87.7

86.2

85.1

Sweden

85.2

85.6

86.4

UK

76.7

78.2

79.3

Croatia

90.6 (02)

95.4

95.1

Iceland

46.1

53.6

53.6

MK*

n/a

79.7

81.9

Turkey

n/a

48.9

50.0

Norway

95.0

70.1b

69.7

Source: Eurostat (LFS) Top performers low performers. b= break in series. p= provisional. (01) = 2001. (02)= 2002

*MK = former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

5. Maths, science & technology graduates

Benchmark 2010: By 2010 the total number of MST graduates in the EU should increase by at least 15%, gender imbalance should decrease.

Trends: The number of MST graduates increased by 37.2% since 2000 and the female share from 30.7% to 32.6% in 2008.

Best EU performers: Growth since 2000: Portugal, Slovakia and Czech Republic

growth 2000 - 2008

share of females

2000

2008

EU 27

37.2

30.7

32.6

Belgium

20.9

25.0

25.9

Bulgaria

21.8

45.6

37.0

Czech Rep.

141.3

27.0

30.1

Denmark

14.3

28.5

36.4

Germany

53.5

21.6

31.1

Estonia

57.1

35.7

42.1

Ireland

1.0

37.9

30.4

Greece

26.5*

:

41.9

Spain

14.8

31.5

30.2

France

5.4

30.8

28.2

Italy

62.9

36.6

38.4

Cyprus

58.3

31.0

37.4

Latvia

11.5*

31.4

32.2

Lithuania

36.4

35.9

33.5

Luxembourg

:

:

48.2

Hungary

18.9

22.6

25.7

Malta

33.9*

26.3

28.4

Netherlands

39.3

17.6

18.9

Austria

66.4

19.9

24.2

Poland

100.0

35.9

40.3

Portugal

193.2

41.9

34.1

Romania

89.1*

35.1

43.1

Slovenia

16.0

22.8

26.5

Slovakia

185.8

30.1

36.8

Finland

59.5

27.3

33.1

Sweden

13.3

32.1

33.4

UK

17.8

32.1

31.2

Croatia

81.7*

:

33.2

Iceland

39.9

37.9

n/a

MK*

68.0

41.6

42.8

Turkey

70.8

31.1

30.6

Liechtenstein

41.1*

:

25.8

Norway

11.0

26.8

29.6

Source: Eurostat (UOE). *= Cumulative growth extrapolated from years available.

*MK = former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

6. Tertiary attainment

Benchmark 2020 (also EU 2020 headline target): By 2020 tertiary attainment of 30-34 year olds should at least reach 40%.

Trends: Tertiary attainment of 30-34 year olds increased from 22.4% in 2000 to 32.3% (females: 35.7%, males 28.9%) in 2009 and hence by nearly 10 percentage points.

Best EU performers: Ireland, Denmark and Luxembourg

2000

2008

2009

EU 27

22.4

31.1

32.3

Belgium

35.2

42.9

42.0

Bulgaria

19.5

27.1

27.9

Czech Rep.

13.7

15.4

17.5

Denmark

32.1

46.3

48.1

Germany

25.7

27.7

29.4

Estonia

30.8

34.1

35.9

Ireland

27.5

46.1

49.0

Greece

25.4

25.6

26.5

Spain

29.2

39.8

39.4

France

27.4

41.3

43.3

Italy

11.6

19.2

19.0

Cyprus

31.1

47.1

44.7

Latvia

18.6

27.0

30.1

Lithuania

42.6

39.9

40.6

Luxembourg

21.2

39.8

46.6p p p

Hungary

14.8

22.4

23.9

Malta

7.4

21.0p

21.1p

Netherlands

26.5

40.2

40.5

Austria

:

22.2

23.5

Poland

12.5

29.7

32.8

Portugal

11.3

21.6

21.1

Romania

8.9

16.0

16.8

Slovenia

18.5

30.9

31.6

Slovakia

10.6

15.8

17.6

Finland

40.3

45.7

45.9

Sweden

31.8

42.0p

43.9p

UK

29.0

39.7

41.5

Croatia

16.2(02)

18.5u

20.5u

Iceland

32.6

38.3

41.8

MK*

:

12.4

14.3

Turkey

:

13.0

14.7

Norway

37.3

46.2

47.0

Source: Eurostat (UOE), (02) = 2002.

*MK = former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, u=unreliable data

7. Adult lifelong learning participation

Benchmark 2010/2020: The EU average level of participation in lifelong learning of the working age population should at least reach 12.5% in 2010 and 15% in 2020.

Trends: On an EU level participation increased from 7.1% in 2000 to 9.3% in 2009 (population 25-64; males 8.5%. females: 10.2%). A consider­able part of this increase was, however, a result of breaks in time series around 2003. Since 2005 participation slightly decreased.

Best EU performers: Denmark, Sweden and Finland

2005

2008

2009

EU 25

9.8

9.5

9.3

Belgium

8.3

6.8

6.8

Bulgaria

1.3

1.4

1.4

Czech Rep.

5.6

7.8 p

6.8

Denmark

27.4

30.2

31.6

Germany

7.7

7.9

7.8

Estonia

5.9

9.8 p

10.5

Ireland

7.4

7.1

6.3

Greece

1.9

2.9

3.3

Spain

10.5

10.4

10.4

France

7.1

7.3

6.0

Italy

5.8

6.3

6.0

Cyprus

5.9

8.5

7.8

Latvia

7.9

6.8

5.3

Lithuania

6.0

4.9

4.5

Luxembourg

8.5

8.5

13.4 p

Hungary

3.9

3.1

2.7

Malta

5.3

6.2

5.8 p

Netherlands

15.9

17.0

17.0

Austria

12.9

13.2

13.8

Poland

4.9

4.7

4.7

Portugal

4.1

5.3 p

6.5

Romania

1.6

1.5

1.5

Slovenia

15.3

13.9

14.6

Slovakia

4.6

3.3

2.8

Finland

22.5

23.1

22.1

Sweden

17.4 p

22.2 b

22.2 p

UK

27.6

19.9 b

20.1

Croatia

2.1

2.2

2.3

Iceland

25.7

25.1

25.1

MK*

:

2.5

3.3

Turkey

1.9

1.8

2.3

Norway

17.8

19.3

18.1

Source: Eurostat (LFS) Top performers low performers. b = break in time series. p = provisional.
*MK = former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia


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