- High-quality education is an essential prerequisite for the emergence of a knowledge-based economy, to boost the competitiveness of a region and to enhance its resilience to economic shocks.
- Regions that perform well regarding both defined education targets can be found in large parts of France, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and Lithuania. European educational policies are mostly elaborated at the national level, however regional differences within countries persist as well. In general, capital regions and major urban areas perform better than more rural areas.
- Some regions that are performing well on tertiary education might, due to the crisis, face a brain drain due to a lack of jobs for these well-qualified persons.
Observations for policy
A well-organised education-system is a precondition towards a knowledge-based economy. The objective is to further increase the level of skills and competitiveness. The European Commission aims at less than 10% early school leavers and at least 40% of the population aged 30-34 with tertiary education, under the objective of inclusive growth.
Achieving the targets of education depends on several factors and to a large extent on national education systems. Cities and capitals have in general the best opportunities in achieving the two EU education targets.
The Iberian Peninsula scores relatively far above regarding the Europe 2020 target of less than 10% early school leavers but can boast the largest positive change from 2000 to 2010. While some rural or peripheral regions experience relatively large numbers of early school leavers as well, e-learning constitutes an opportunity to improve this indicator eliminating the challenges of large distances to schools. Countries in Eastern Europe ranging from Croatia to Poland perform in general better on the target regarding drop-out rate, based on their education system.
Also the tertiary education attainment can be defined by the education system. In for example Germany and Austria, where the education system is historically more focused on applied sciences fewer persons have tertiary education. Cities and capital regions have in general more persons aged 30-34 with tertiary education. 86 NUTS2 regions have tertiary educational attainment rates above 40%, most of which can be found in Western Europe. However, these regions are scattered across Europe and do not have a distinct urban or rural profile.
Well-performing regions that are more hit by the financial and economic crisis have an additional challenge of a ÔÇśbrain drainÔÇÖ. Regions, for example the Basque region, which score well on population with tertiary education, might lose these well-qualified labour forces due to the lack of jobs.
The Europe 2020 strategy has defined clear targets for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Two targets have been defined in relation to education;
- 40% of the population aged 30-34 with tertiary education,
- Less than 10% early school leavers.
The Europe 2020 targets on education are also translated in the thematic objectives of EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020. Investing in education, skills and life long learning by developing education and training infrastructure is one of the main objectives of this programming period. Even though the 6th┬áCohesion Report mentions that Europe is on track when it comes to reaching its target to reduce drop-out rates, with a reduction from 14.8% early school leavers in 2008 to 11.9% in 2013, more investments are expected in EuropeÔÇÖs education system. Reducing drop-out rates is considered as a means to boost competitiveness.
The map shows the status of European regions at NUTS2 level towards the achievement of the European targets. Four different groups of regions are defined based on the rates below or above the two European targets.
The pattern regarding the achievement of the education targets seems rather scattered. However, some commonalities can be defined. Regions that have not even achieved one target can be found in Southern Europe and the new accession states of 2007, as well as in large parts of Germany and more rural areas in other countries. Regions that already achieved both education targets are in general capital and urban regions.
Concepts and methods
The map shows two different targets on education mentioned in the Europe 2020 strategy. The two targets have been combined and are shown in the matrix as legend for the map.
The percentage of total population aged 30-34 with tertiary education in a region is compared with the EU headline target of 40% tertiary education. Illustrated are regions below (brown), and above the EU target (blue).
Second, the map illustrates the target regarding drop-out rate, which relates to the European target of less than 10% early school leavers. Early school leavers are understood as those who fail to complete upper secondary education. The target aims at reducing the amount of school leavers aged 18-24. The brighter colours show regions that have already reached the target, the pastel colours show regions that have not yet achieved the target value.