Europe needs to invest more money in education

A new Eurostat survey shows large variations among countries in investment in education and training in the EU 25.

A new Eurostat report published on 29 August 2003 on public expenditure on education shows that EU Member States devote an average of 5 per cent of their GDP on education, based on data from 1999. There is a large variation between the countries, ranging from 3.6 per cent in Greece, to 7.5 per cent in Sweden and 8.1 per cent in Denmark.

On average in the EU 15, the public sector spent 10.4 per cent of its budget for education. Denmark, Ireland, Portugal and Sweden all spent more than 12 per cent of their public budget on education while Germany, Greece and Italy spent less than 10 per cent.

In the EU 15, 5.222 euro were spent on average per pupil/student. In the future Member States, the figure goes from a high of 4.266 euro in Cyprus and 2.835 euro in the Czech Republic to a low of 1.875 euro in Poland and 1.716 euro in Latvia.

 

Commission President Romano Prodi said, "although the Union has made progress towards a knowledge-based economy, it still lags behind its main competitors in terms of investment and performance. We still have far fewer researchers than the US or Japan. Levels of public expenditure on education and total expenditure on R&D vary greatly throughout the Union".

ESIB - The National Unions of Students in Europe considers that progress on the issue of investment into education and training systems is urgently needed. However, ESIB chairperson Stefan Bienefeld also issues a warning: "The burden of financing higher education and training must not be transferred to individuals. It is with great concern we view the trend of transferring these costs by the introduction of varios forms of user fees."

 

The Lisbon Summit in 2000 called for a “substantial annual increase in the per capita investment in human resources” in order to transform the EU into the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010.

On 10 January 2003, the Commission adopted a Communication on 'Investing efficiently in education and training: an imperative for Europe' which looks at the issue of investment in education and training. The Commission expressed concern about the under-investment in human resources in Europe as regards the overall level of funding, and concludes that new investment in education and training is necessary. The Commission called on Member States to establish national benchmarks to contribute to achieving the Lisbon objective in investment in human resources.

During the last Education Council on 5-6 May 2003, the education ministers did not agree on a benchmark on investment in education and training considering that this issue requests further analysis.

 

The Education Council is expected to decide on further action on the basis of current analysis of efficient investment in education and training.

 

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