A report on education and training progress issued by the European Commission today shows that 49 percent of people in Ireland have a third-level qualification, and more 30 to 34 year olds hold such a qualification than any where else in the EU. Yet, Ireland showed an increase of just 1 percent of graduates of maths, science and technology and also displayed a decrease in the number of female science graduates.
Overall, EU countries have improved their education systems in key areas over the past decade but they have achieved only one out of five benchmarks set for 2010 (to increase the number of maths, science and technology graduates). Androulla Vassiliou, the Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth stressed the need for a continued focus on these targets despite economic constraints. “Spending on education is a good investment for jobs and economic growth and in the long term pays for itself. But in times of budgetary pressures we also have to ensure that resources are used as efficiently as possible” he added.
Benchmarks 2020: Results for Ireland
By 2020 at least 95 percent of children between the age of four and the age for starting compulsory primary education should participate in early childhood education. Results for 2008 show that only 72 percent of Irish children between 4 years old and the starting age of compulsory education participated in early childhood education.
By 2010 the share of low achievers in reading should decrease by 20 percent to 17 percent. By 2020 the share of low achievers in reading, maths and science should be less than 15 percent. In Ireland the share of low achievers increased from 11 percent in 2000 to 17.2 percent in 2009.
By 2010/2020 a share of early school leavers of no more than 10 percent should be reached. Ireland has improved in relation to this target with the rate of early school leavers dropping from 14.6 percent in 2002 to 11.3 percent in 2009.
By 2010 at least 85 percent of 22 year-olds should have should have completed upper-secondary education. Ireland has exceeded the target at 87 percent in 2009, a rise 4.4 percent since 2000 but a drop of 0.7 percent since 2008 when we reached 87.7 percent.
By 2010 the total number of maths, science and technology graduates in the EU should increase by at least 15 percent and gender imbalance should decrease. Ireland was the worst performers in this area with an increase of only 1 percent between the years 2000 and 2008. Along with this, the share of females dropped from 37.9 percent to 30.4 percent.
By 2020 tertiary attainment of 30 to 34 year olds should at least reach 40 percent. Rates in Ireland increased from 27.5 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2009 (the highest level in the EU).
The EU average level of participation in lifelong learning of the working age population should at least reach 12.5 percent in 2010 and 15 percent in 2020. Ireland fell significantly below the target with a dip from 7.4 percent in 2005 to 6.3 percent in 2009.