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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 11 April 2013

Progress in tackling early school leaving and raising higher education attainment - but males are increasingly left behind

A majority of EU Member States have made progress on the Europe 2020 education targets to reduce the rate of early school leaving to below 10% and increase the share of young people with higher education (tertiary or equivalent) qualifications to above 40% by 2020, according to new figures for 2012 released by Eurostat today. However, there are still wide disparities between Member States and between males and females. The share of young people leaving school early now stands at 12.8% on average in the EU, down from 13.5% in 2011. In 2012, 35.8% of 30-34 year olds in the EU had completed tertiary education, compared with 34.6% in the previous year.

Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "The progress in achieving our education targets is a positive message in a time of economic uncertainty. The jobs of the future will demand higher qualifications and these figures show that more young people are determined to achieve their full potential. We are also seeing that efforts to improve Europe's education systems and increase accessibility are paying off. I encourage all Member States to sustain their efforts so that we reach our 2020 targets; this is especially true for countries which have not made progress or whose performance was worse than in the previous year. I invite them to increase their efforts and follow the many examples of good practices."

12 Member States (Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden) now have early school leaving rates below the 10% Europe 2020 target, with Ireland reaching this level for the first time. Spain (24.9%), Malta (22.6%) and Portugal (20.8%) have the highest rates of early school leaving, but made progress compared to 2011. Germany, Greece, Ireland, Latvia and the UK reduced early school leaving by at least one percentage point, but the rate increased in Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.

In 2012, the share of 30-34 year olds with a higher education degree was above the Europe 2020 target of 40% in 12 Member States (Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK). Poland and Slovenia are set to exceed 40% next year. The proportion of young people with a higher education qualification remains low in Italy (21.7%), Slovakia (23.7%), Romania (21.8%), Malta (22.4%), the Czech Republic (25.6%) and Portugal (27.2%). Worryingly, the already low rate of tertiary attainment in Bulgaria (26.9%) fell slightly in 2012.

Overall, girls tend to do better: the rate of early school leavers among girls is 24% lower than for boys. The disparity is greatest in Cyprus (+58%), Latvia (+57%), Luxembourg (+57%) and Poland (+55%), where the school drop-out rate for boys is more than twice as high as for girls. Women are also 27% more likely to have completed higher education. The gender divide is biggest in Latvia (+85%), Estonia (+79%), Slovenia (+68%) and Bulgaria (+67%).

Background

The figures were compiled by Eurostat as part of the EU Labour Force Survey, which provides data on the situation in the EU labour market and trends, including participation and attainment in education and training.

The rate of early school leavers is defined as the proportion of the population aged 18-24 with only lower secondary education or less and no longer in education or training. Higher (tertiary) education attainment is calculated as the share of the population aged 30-34 having completed tertiary (or equivalent) education.

Next steps

Member States agreed at the Council meeting in February 2013 to focus on improving the performance of young people at high risk of early school leaving and with low basic skills. This can be achieved, for example, through early detection across the education system and by providing individual support.

Next month, the European Commission will assess the measures taken by Member States to achieve the headline targets in the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy for growth and jobs. It may also propose country specific recommendations.

The Commission will also report on latest developments concerning early school leaving and tertiary attainment in the upcoming Education and Training Monitor (autumn 2013).

For more information

European Commission: Early school leaving

European Commission: Modernisation agenda for higher education

Eurostat: Labour Force Survey

European Commission: Education and training

Androulla Vassiliou's website

Follow Androulla Vassiliou on Twitter @VassiliouEU

Contacts :

Dennis Abbott (+32 2 295 92 58); Twitter: @DennisAbbott

Dina Avraam (+32 2 295 96 67)

Figure 1: Early school leaving rates in the EU (% in 2010, 2011 and 2012), change in last year (in percentage points) and national 2020 target

 

2010

2011

2012

Change 2011-2012

National target

EU

14.0

13.5

12.8p

-0.7

less than 10.0

Austria

8.3

8.3

7.6

-0.7

9.5

Belgium

11.9

12.3

12.0

-0.3

9.5

Bulgaria

13.9

11.8

12.5

0.7

11.0

Cyprus

12.7

11.3

11.4

0.1

10.0

Czech Republic

4.9

4.9

5.5

0.6

5.5

Denmark

11.0

9.6

9.1

-0.5

less than 10.0

Estonia

11.6

10.9

10.5

-0.4

9.5

Finland

10.3

9.8

8.9

-0.9

8.0

France

12.6

12.0

11.6

-0.4

9.5

Germany

11.9

11.7

10.5p

-1.2

less than 10.0

Greece

13.7

13.1

11.4

-1.7

9.7

Hungary

10.5

11.2

11.5

0.3

10.0

Ireland

11.4

10.8

9.7

-1.1

8.0

Italy

18.8

18.2

17.6

-0.6

15.0-16.0

Latvia

13.3

11.6b

10.5

-1.1

13.4

Lithuania

8.1

7.2

6.5

-0.7

less than 9.0

Luxembourg

7.1

6.2

8.1p

1.9

less than 10.0

Malta

24.8

23.6

22.6

-1.0

29.0

Netherlands

10.0

9.1

8.8p

-0.3

less than 8.0

Poland

5.4p

5.6p

5.7p

0.1

4.5

Portugal

28.7

23.2

20.8

-2.4

10.0

Romania

18.4

17.5

17.4

-0.1

11.3

Slovakia

4.7

5.0

5.3

0.3

6.0

Slovenia

5.0

4.2

4.4

0.2

5.0

Spain

28.4

26.5

24.9

-1.6

15.0

Sweden

6.5

6.6

7.5

0.9

less than 10.0

United Kingdom

14.9

15.0

13.5

-1.5

No target

Source: Eurostat (EU LFS); b=break in time series p=provisional

Note: The Maltese series on early leavers from education and training have been revised. The revision concerns the classification of certain qualifications at secondary level. Further explanations are available on Eurostat's website. The national target refers to data prior to the revision

Figure 2: Gender difference in early school leaving, boys=100, 2012

Source: Eurostat (EU LFS)

Reading note: At EU27 level there are only 76 girls for every 100 boys who are early school leavers. In Cyprus it is 42 girls for every 100 boys whereas Bulgaria is the only country where more girls are early school leavers (107 for every 100 boys).

Figure 3: Tertiary education attainment or equivalent among those aged 30-34 (% in 2010, 2011 and 2012), change in last year (in percentage points) and national 2020 target

 

2010

2011

2012

Change 2011-2012

National target

EU

33.5

34.6

35.8p

1.2

at least 40.0

Austria1

23.5

23.8

26.3

2.5

38.0

Belgium

44.4

42.6

43.9

1.3

47.0

Bulgaria

27.7

27.3

26.9

-0.4

36.0

Cyprus

45.3

46.2

49.9

3.7

46.0

Czech Republic

20.4

23.8

25.6

1.8

32.0

Denmark

41.2

41.2

43.0

1.8

at least 40.0

Estonia

40.0

40.3

39.1

-1.2

40.0

Finland

45.7

46.0

45.8

-0.2

42.0

France

43.5

43.3

43.6

0.3

50.0

Germany2

29.8

30.7

31.9p

1.2

42.0

Greece

28.4

28.9

30.9

2

32.0

Hungary

25.7

28.1

29.9

1.8

30.3

Ireland

49.9

49.7

51.1

1.4

60.0

Italy

19.8

20.3

21.7

1.4

26.0-27.0

Latvia

32.3

35.9b

37.0

1.1

34.0-36.0

Lithuania

43.8

45.8

48.7

2.9

40.0

Luxembourg

46.1

48.2

49.6p

1.4

40.0

Malta

21.5

21.4

22.4

1.3

33.0

Netherlands

41.4

41.1b

42.3p

1.2

more than 40.0

Poland

35.3p

36.9p

39.1p

2.2

45.0

Portugal

23.5

26.1

27.2

1.1

40.0

Romania

18.1

20.4

21.8

1.4

26.7

Slovakia

22.1

23.4

23.7

0.3

40.0

Slovenia

34.8

37.9

39.2

1.3

40.0

Spain

40.6

40.6

40.1

-0.5

44.0

Sweden

45.3

46.8

47.9

0.5

40.0-45.0

United Kingdom

43.0

45.8

47.1

1.3

No target

Source: Eurostat (EU LFS); b=break in time series p=provisional

Figure 4: Gender difference in tertiary educational attainment level, boys=100, 2012

Source: Eurostat (EU LFS)

Reading note: At EU27 level there are 127 women for every 100 men in the age group 30 to 34 years old who, in 2012, have a tertiary attainment level. In Latvia it is 185 girls for every 100 boys whereas Luxembourg is the only country where more men have tertiary attainment than women (97 women for every 100 men).

1 :

The Austrian national target includes ISCED 4a postsecondary attainment. Inclusion of ISCED 4a give 37% (2011).

2 :

The German national target includes ISCED 4 postsecondary education attainment. Inclusion of ISCED 4 give 42% (2011).


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