Analytics, Education and Science, EU – Baltic States, Modern EU

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Wednesday, 21.11.2018, 14:20

Inequality remains a challenge in education and training in several EU states

Eugene Eteris, European Studies Faculty, RSU, BC International Editor, Copenhagen/Riga, 14.11.2017.Print version
The EU member states have to do more to overcome inequalities in education systems. Education has a special role in building a fairer society by offering equal chances to everybody. That was the outcome of a new Commission's Monitor published recently.

The European Commission supports the EU states' measures in their education systems to deliver on the key EU targets in reforming and modernising education, with more efforts to achieve equity in education. Commission's Education and Training Monitor (the 2017 edition was presented in Brussels on 9 November) shows that national education systems are becoming more inclusive and effective. Yet it also confirms that students' educational attainment largely depends on their socio-economic backgrounds.


The EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said on the occasion of the 2017-edition, that inequality still deprives too many Europeans of the chance to get modern education. Inequality, he added, was also a threat to social cohesion, to long-term economic growth and to prosperity. Still too often, the states' education systems perpetuated inequality: either the states do not cater for people from poorer backgrounds; in such cases parents' social status determine educational achievements and poverty diminish opportunities on the job market.


The member states have to do more to overcome these inequalities as education systems have a special role to play in building a fairer society by offering equal chances to everybody.

Social aspects in education

Educational attainment is important in determining social outcomes. People with only basic education are almost three times more likely to live in poverty or social exclusion than those with tertiary education.


The Monitor-2017 shows that in 2016, only 44% of young people aged 18-24 who had finished school at lower secondary level were employed. In the general population aged between 15 and 64, the unemployment rate is also much higher for those with only basic education than for those with tertiary education (16.6% vs. 5.1%).


At the same time, socio-economic status determines how well pupils do: as many as 33.8% of pupils from the most disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds are low achievers, compared to only 7.6% of their most privileged peers.


One of the EU's targets for 2020 is to reduce the share of 15-year-old pupils who underachieve in basic reading, maths and science to 15%. However, as a whole, the EU is actually moving further away from this objective, particularly in science, where the number of low achievers increased from 16% in 2012 to 20.6% in 2015.


People born outside the EU are particularly vulnerable. This group is often exposed to multiple risks and disadvantages, such as having poor or low skilled parents, not speaking the local language at home, having access to fewer cultural resources and suffering from isolation and poor social networks in the country of immigration. Young people with a migrant background are at a greater risk of performing badly at school and leaving school prematurely. In 2016, as many as 33.9% of people aged 30-34 living in the EU but born outside it were low skilled (having achieved lower secondary education or below), compared to only 14.8% of their peers born in the EU.


Among the EU states, investment in education has recovered from the financial crisis and increased slightly (1% year-on-year in real terms); about two-thirds of the EU states recorded a rise and four countries increased investment by more than 5%.


On 17 November, in Gothenburg, the EU Leaders will discuss Education and Culture as part of their work on "Building our future together"; discussion in Gothenburg will additionally show numerous political aspects and serious significance of modern education reforms.


Commissioner Navracsics will host the first ever EU Education Summit on 25 January 2018 where high-level representatives from the EU states will be invited to discuss how to make national education systems more inclusive and effective.

Six EU education and training targets for 2020

The Commission's Education and Training Monitor shows how the EU's member states' education and training systems are evolving presently. The Monitor measures the EU's progress on the six Education and Training 2020 targets:


(1) The share of early leavers (aged 18-24) from education and training should be less than 10%;

(2) the share of 30 to 34 year-olds with tertiary educational attainment should be at least 40%;

(3) at least 95% of children between the age of four and the age for starting primary education should participate in education;

(4) the share of 15 year-olds with underachievement in reading, mathematics and science should be less than 15%;

(5) 82% of recent graduates from upper secondary to tertiary education (aged 20-34) who are no longer in education or training should be in employment, and

(6) at least 15% of adults (aged 25-64) should participate in formal or non-formal learning.


The Monitor analyses the main challenges for European education systems and presents policies that can make them more responsive to societal and labour market needs. The report makes a cross-country comparison among 28 EU states.


The following EU institutions assist member states in stimulating investment and in supporting policy priorities in education: the Investment Plan for Europe, the Erasmus+ programme, the European Structural and Investment Funds (including the Youth Employment Initiative), the European Solidarity Corps, the EU Horizon 2020 program and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. 


More on the issue is in the following link: = Education & Training Monitor 2017;


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