EU policy needs to focus on educational outcomes, rather than inputs or attainment, a report has said.
The ‘Economic Case for Education’ report was published by the European Expert Network on Economics of Education (EENEE) this week.
Calls for reform
In its report, EENEE warned against complacency in European countries. Although some countries in the EU have reported high skills levels, Europe is still failing to contend with world-leading skills economies like Japan and Korea, it said.
“While some EU countries have seen important improvements in their young generations’ achievement levels over the past decade, the available achievement data paint a picture of complacency in some other EU countries,” the report said. “Such complacency endangers future prosperity in the European Union.”
Policy makers should direct their attention towards educational outcomes rather than inputs or attainments, with a focus on laying strong skills foundations in schools.
Importance of adaptability
By focussing on skills gained rather than attainment, workers will be more able to adapt to a changing economy.
Older workers who obtain qualifications for specific jobs are those most at risk of being unable to retrain as labour needs change.
Different types of degrees were shown to be indicators of a workers ability to adapt to market changes. Employment rates for young people with vocational qualifications are higher than general educational degrees, but general education degrees have greater longevity.
“Although regular adult education and training may help update to more highly demanded skills, these [older] workers may also find it harder to re-skill at a later stage because they are lacking some basic general skills that facilitate subsequent lifelong learning,” the report said.
Greater levels of general and life skills were also shown to have an effect on individual earnings.
Higher levels of numeracy skills are “systematically and strongly” related to higher earnings in all European countries, with equivalent levels estimated by EENEE for literacy skills.
Variations in the rate of financial returns to skills were apparent across countries and social groups. Ireland, German and Spain report higher levels of financial returns on education, and Italy, Denmark and Cyprus report lower levels.
Workers with several years’ experience also reported higher levels of returns relative to entry-level workers. Men and women reported identical return rates in a sample of prime-age workers.