EC: Bulgaria Sees More Science Graduates, Still EU Education Laggard
Bulgaria has seen a tangible percentage growth in the number of math, science, and technology university graduates, according to the 2009/2010 Education Report of the European Commission.
In 2000 Bulgaria had 8 100 MST university graduates, compared with 9 300 in 2007 and 9 800 in 2008, according to the EC data; the 2008 figure is 6.3% higher than the 2000 figure; this growth is higher than the EU average of 3.6%. Bulgaria's also registered a substantial increase in the number of female MST graduates.
However, the EC report reveals that Bulgaria is the EU education laggard in a number of aspects, especially the lifelong learning process where only 1.3%-1.4% of the Bulgarian adults are involved compared with the EU average of 9.3%.
The EC report says that for 14 European countries, private spending represented less than 10% of total spending on educational institutions. Two Nordic countries (Finland and Sweden) had even less than 3%. For another group (Czech Republic, Spain, Latvia, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia), private sources accounted for 10 to 15% of total spending on educational institutions. In Cyprus, Netherlands, Germany and Bulgaria, educational institutions were funded from private sources in a proportion of 15 to 30%. These EU rates compare with 33% in Japan, 34% in the United States and 40% in Korea. Among EU Member States only the United Kingdom (31%) comes close to such levels of private sources of funding.
In 2007, the EU Member States spent between 1900 (Bulgaria) and 11600 (Luxembourg)Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) Euro per primary student, respectively between 1800 (Bulgaria and Romania) and 15200 (Luxembourg) PPS Euro per secondary student (figure Ann. Int. 4.5).
Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden have the highest starting age of compulsory education – 7 years of age.
The report finds that in 2008, 7.9% of all Bulgarian university students studied in another EU-27, EEA or Candidate country compared with 8.3% in 2007, and 3.2% in 2000. This is substantially more than the EU average of 2.1% in 2000, 2.8% in 2007, and 2.8% in 2008.
In 2008/2009, a total of 1 283 Bulgarian students studied in the EU under the Erasmus exchange program, while 393 EU students came to Bulgaria. Bulgaria's ratio of sending Erasmus students abroad is 0.5% compared with an EU average of 1.3%.
A total of 46 700 Bulgarians received university degrees in the country in 2000, compared with 49 200 in 2007 and 54 900 in 2008, an 2008/2000 increase of 2% vs. a 4.5% increase for the EU as a whole where 2.8 million earned university degrees in 2000 and 4.08 million in 2008.
Considering that very low educational attainment is among the risk factors most directly associated with social exclusion, the fact that 17.4% of early leavers in the EU have completed at most primary school is a matter of major concern. Drawing on available and reliable figures, this category is absent in the Nordic countries, Austria, Estonia, Croatia, Lithuania, Malta and the UK, but is particularly evident in Belgium (35.1%), Bulgaria (38%),
Greece (37.2%) and Portugal (38.1%). There are relatively high proportions of unemployed and inactive early leavers in Bulgaria (73%), Hungary (71%), Slovakia (80%), Lithuania (66%) and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (77%), the report finds.
There are large differences in performance between the Member States in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).
Finland had only 8.1% of low performers (up from 7.0% in 2000 and 4.8% in 2006), followed by Estonia (13.3%) and the Netherlands (14.3%), countries that hence already perform better than the 15% benchmark. Poland (15.0%) and Denmark (15.2%) have results at or very close to the European benchmark. On the other side of the scale in Bulgaria and Romania more than 40% of the pupils were low performers in PISA 2009.
Finland has the smallest share of low performers in mathematics in the EU with only 7.8 %, followed by Estonia (12.7%) and the Netherlands (13.4%). However, in Romania and Bulgaria nearly half of the pupils fall into this category.
Poland (13.1%), the Netherlands (13.2%), Hungary (14.1%), Slovenia (14.8%) and Germany (14.8%) also already perform better than the 2020 benchmark. In contrast more than 35% of pupils in Bulgaria and Romania are low performers in science.
The EU countries that were most successful in reducing the share of low achievers in science include Portugal (-8.0pp), Romania (-5.5pp), Italy (-4.7 pp) and Bulgaria (-3.8 pp). Outside the EU the Candidate country Turkey (-16.6 pp) showed a strong improvement of performance.
In prevocational and vocational upper secondary education, students learn on average two languages only in Luxembourg, 1.8 in Estonia, 1.6 in Poland and Romania, 1.5 in Belgium Flemish Community and in Bulgaria, followed by Italy and Slovakia (1.4).
The report finds that the EU countries as a whole 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. 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. The Europe 2020 jobs and growth strategy retains the target of reducing the school drop-out rate to under 10%.
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.
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).
Full Text of the EU Education Report 2009/2010 by the European Commission is available HERE
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