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5th report on Lisbon in education: overall progress slow and shadowed by low literacy

On July 10th the European Commission published its 2008 Indicators and Benchmarks Report on member states' progress towards their objectives under the Education and Training 2010 work programme. This is the 5th annual report prepared by the DG for Education and Culture in cooperation with Eurostat, Joint Research Centre and the Eurydice. The report analyses progress of educational systems towards the 2010 Lisbon objectives in five benchmark areas:

  • Completion of upper secondary education
  • Early school leavers
  • Participation of adults in lifelong learning
  • Low achievers in reading literacy
  • Higher education graduates in Mathematics, Science and Technology

The report highlights individual member states' performances and their progress towards the five benchmarks, and identifies which of them are catching up or falling behind, losing momentum or moving further ahead compared to the others. The ‘name and shame’ type of peer pressure is expected to motivate countries to catch up and improve their performance. The main conclusion of the 2008 report is that overall Europe is making progress in four of the five core areas. However, the number of pupils with a low performance in reading has not decreased. Rather, the situation has worsened since 2000. The only core area in which the objective – 15% total growth - has been surpassed and indeed doubled is the number of maths, science and technology graduates.

In comparison with one of its main ‘competitors’, European higher education funding lags far behind: while public spending on higher education is close to that in the US, it is the private spending that marks the difference. Compared to the 1.91% of GDP in the US, the European 0.23% private spending appears worryingly low. Indeed, overall, EU spends EUR 100 billion less on higher education each year compared to the United States.

Unsurprisingly, while progress has been made in most areas, it has been too slow: improvements need to be much faster across the EU if the targets are to be met in the two years separating us from the 2010 ‘deadline’.