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Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, recently published new data on progress towards the two EU “headline targets” relating to education. The good news: there is progress. But the picture is to a high degree due to female students and pupils. Men lag behind.
The Union introduced its five headline targets already in 2002, and it has been measuring progress annually ever since. Two of the targets concern education. The first one measures the share of the population of 30-34-year-olds who have completed tertiary education. The EU-wide target set was 40% - individual countries have their own (higher or lower) targets. In 2002, the EU-wide average was 23.6%. In 2017, it stood at 39.9%, i.e. minimally below the target (to be reached in 2020). The shares rose for males and females alike. But the percentage of women has at any time been higher than that of men. In 2017, the female share stood at 44.9%. That of males, on the other hand reached only 34.9%. The highest percentages of all tertiary graduates are to be found in Lithuania, Cyprus and Ireland. With values ranging from 58% to 53.5%. At the bottom of the table, with under 30%, are Romania, Italy and Croatia. Half of the 28 EU countries have already reached or exceeded their individual country target.
School drop-out is on the way down, which is also good news. Early school-leavers, defined as the percentage of 18-24-year-olds who have completed at least lower secondary education and who were not in in further education and training, stood at 10.6%, compared to 15.3% in 2006. Again, fewer young women than young men drop out. The respective shares are 8.9% and 12.1%.
The recent focus on inclusiveness in European policies is very welcome. But too rarely is it being recognised that more or less half of the population – males – belong to those who are ‘challenged’.