Challenges and prospects in the EU: Quality of life and public services Chapter 5

55 Introduction Education impacts life in multiple ways beyond increasing competence and adaptability, and education certificates often serve as a proxy for skills (Jackson et al, 2008). Various other outcomes at later stages in life (e.g. health outcomes) are also highly correlated with educational attainment, directly or indirectly (e.g. through income). In addition, education is correlated with a whole range of non-economic aspects, including attitudes by facilitating the evaluation of complex social situations, widening the individual’s knowledge and horizon of experiences, and promoting civic rights and responsibilities (EENEE, 2018). There is ample research on the connection between education and quality of life. Education is key in promoting social inclusion and learning about European integration (Edgerton et al, 2012; European Commission, 2018). Education systems shape occupational opportunities for individuals most when they join the labour market. Indeed, one of the most relevant objective outcomes of education and training is ‘enhancing employability to meet current and future labour market challenges’ as specifically mentioned in the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) (Council of the European Union, 2009). Initial education has a more or less long-term implication for a career and success in the labour market (Allmendinger, 1989). Many empirical studies in sociology have shown the link between educational attainment and labour market institutions across different countries (e.g. DiPrete et al, 2017). In a very general way, education systems reflect and interact with the organisation of work and support the functioning of the economy but also reproduce social stratification. The nature of vocational education in different countries is affected by labour market coordination (e.g. Estevez-Abe et al, 2001). Coordination often takes place at the industry level, where supply and demand of skills can be addressed by the social partners. The ET 2020 (Council of the European Union, 2009) defined targets to be achieved at European level by 2020: £ The rate of early leavers from education and training aged 18–24 should be below 10%. £ At least 40% of people aged 30–34 should have completed some form of higher education. £ At least 95% of children should participate in early childhood education. £ Fewer than 15% of 15-year-olds should be under-skilled in reading, mathematics and science. £ At least 15% of adults should participate in lifelong learning. £ At least 20% of higher education graduates and 6% of those aged 18–34 with an initial vocational qualification should have spent some time studying or training abroad. £ The share of employed graduates (aged 20–34 with at least upper secondary education and having left education one to three years ago) should be at least 82%. The first two of these targets make up the education target of the Europe 2020 strategy (see European Commission, 2010). Evidently not all education is provided by public authorities, as some providers of education are private market actors, nor are all skills taught in a school environment. It is often difficult to make the distinction between public and private services. For example, some schools are organised privately, but the teachers are paid by the state, or the buildings provided by the state. A lot of public–private partnerships are making it difficult to discern which schools are private or public. In nearly half of the Member States, private schools make up less than 10% of all secondary schools, but in some countries, like Belgium and the Netherlands, most schools are private (Eurydice, 2000; Dronkers and Robert, 2003). 12 5 Education services: Access and quality 12 In 2015, non-educational private sources contributed 18% of total expenditure on education in the EU, peaking at 24% in Cyprus and 28% in the UK (see Eurostat, undated-a).