How is education doing in Europe?


The 2018 OECD report on education is out. Despite high education level when compared to other parts of the world, Europe still has many challenges to face. And cities can make the difference.

Recently, OECD has released its annual vast report on education. It is a wide-ranging publication that attempts to provide evidence-based insights, concrete data and policy information on any education-related issue. It covers all the fields, from childhood to adult education, aiming at offering policymakers, researchers and citizens international comparisons of education opportunities and outcomes.
Among the main findings, the report considers three factors to be the most significant in determining one’s education opportunities, outcomes, and further achievements in the labour market: parents’ education, immigration background, and gender.
So, it all starts with the family: there still is a relevant gap between people with different socio-economic status, and specifically between those with low-educated parents and those with highly-educated ones. Indeed, in spite of the improvements in educational achievements registered in the last decade, the first group is more likely to participate in early childhood education programmes, complete upper secondary school and advance to higher levels of education. This is clearly reflected on their job wages: on average, people that only reach upper secondary education earn 65% of the salary of tertiary-educated people.
Migrants represent a disadvantaged category as well. The participation rate of foreign-born people in bachelor programmes is lower than that of natives; even on the labour market, among those with at least a bachelor’s degree, migrants still register lower employment rates. Moreover, the percentage of NEETs (15-29 aged young people not in employment, education or training) is 5 points (18%) higher than that of natives (13%).
Considering gender, the picture is mixed. In fact, on average, girls achieve better results in education, repeat less often school years compared to their male fellows, and their participation rate to tertiary education is higher than for men. Then one would think that, on average, women should have also better attainments on the job market. Well, we have all heard about the ‘gender pay gap’. And the OECD report confirms it: women employment rates are lower than men, and the salary of tertiary-educated women is 26% lower than those of men with the same education level.
As the report proofs, there are still many challenges that policymakers at all levels must face when it comes to education. True social equality cannot exist without equal access to education, the actual engine of social mobility.
Furthermore, education is an essential element to develop social urban cohesion. To be active citizens, to actively contribute to one’s city well-being, to participate in decision-making at local level, education and learning are indispensable. For these and many more reasons, EUROCITIES is working hard with its Working group education. It aims at raising awareness on the importance of learning, trying to prevent early school leaving, to promote an inclusive and sustainable society through education, to raise awareness on the importance of early childhood education, for both children and their families.
The working group education is doing a great job. Member cities often meet to exchange their best practices, via mutual learning activities and peer reviews. Beside fostering cooperation among cities and different institutions, this makes the difference in developing better policies for children, boys, girls, men and women of European cities.

EUROCITIES staff contact

Bianca Faragau-Tavares