A basic dimension of social needs is quality education. As people attain higher educational levels, income and employment levels increase, their state of health improves as a consequence of leading healthier lifestyles, and they manage to attain competencies and skills that are ever more necessary for developed and digital societies in a globalised world.
The evolution of the Spanish education system has been characterised by a high rate of access to early childhood education and by a marked improvement in accessibility at all educational levels, including higher education. Nevertheless, the system does display a number of important dysfunctions, such as high rates of school leaving, insufficient language competencies and the considerable bearing of socioeconomic background on academic results. In addition, the so-called ‘social elevator’ is still not working properly because children born into families whose educational levels are low have increasingly greater difficulties in managing to go beyond that level. Contributing to that is the high degree of segregation by social background in educational establishments, which could hamper the possibilities that the generalisation of education offers in terms of improving the opportunities of children born into the most vulnerable environments.
In this fifth report on social needs in Spain, the degree of satisfaction of educational needs in recent years is measured. By means of a broad set of indicators, the main sources of information enabling the coverage of those needs to be assessed are analysed on three different planes: accessing a sufficient educational level, gaining adequate knowledge that contributes to economic and social development, and forming part of an inclusive education system. The sources of information are, essentially, the Active Population Survey (EPA, as abbreviated in Spanish), the Household Budget Survey (EPF, as abbreviated in Spanish), the Survey of the Adult Population’s Participation in Learning Activities (EADA, as abbreviated in Spanish) and the surveys from which the OECD’s education-related reports draw their data, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).
For each of the three described challenges (access to education, educational quality and equality), the indicators used include some that are habitually used to assess educational reality, as well as other new ones that enable a tighter view of the evolution of education to be obtained from the perspective of social needs. The latter indicators allow for a more in-depth examination of certain key aspects such as the intergenerational persistence of low educational levels, the burden of families’ private spending on education by their income, and the level of school segregation by socioeconomic background.
In addition, the use of information corresponding to different moments in time enables the evolution of education-related social needs to be assessed. The different indicators point to the fact that the Spanish education system is characterised by high levels of access. However, it has serious difficulties in reducing school leaving and the repetition of a school year. These problems tend to be structural in nature, and they have changed very little in the last decade.
The report also compares the situation in Spain to that in Europe by means of a selection of representative indicators for each of the three challenges. The information analysed reveals that school leaving after compulsory education is much higher than the European mean in both the expansive and recessive stages. Added to this problem are the greater intergenerational persistence of low educational levels and the higher level of segregation by socioeconomic background in educational establishments in Spain than within the European context.
Another section of the report pays attention to the response by public policies to education-related social needs. Different indicators are proposed, which summarise the coverage of those needs by public intervention through different instruments. The information collected shows that Spain is one of the European Union (EU) countries that spend the least on education in relation to both its economic level and per-student spending. It is important to highlight that per-student public spending on education from ages 0 to 3 is below the European mean. So, despite the fact that access to early childhood education is becoming more generalised, families have to make a major financial effort to fund it. This may be hampering its potential positive impact on the development of cognitive and non-cognitive skills in young children from vulnerable environments.
Summarising the information by means of a basic system of indicators – allowing the data to almost speak for themselves while qualifying the narrative with short specific comments that help to interpret them – represents a new approach in the landscape of social reality studies. It is now up to the reader to browse through the pages of the report, build their own narrative, and compare what are normally opinions and hypotheses to a new broad set of objective data
This reports measures education-related social needs. On this aspect, anyone or any household faces three fundamental challenges:
1. Having access to quality education: only if they have access to a sufficient educational level to live and prosper in society will this need be met.
2. Having the possibility to gain adequate knowledge that contributes to economic and social development: only if education enables them to attain an adequate level of knowledge to live a full life and to satisfy labour market demands for decent quality jobs will this need be met.
3. Forming part of an inclusive education system: only if the education system promotes equal life opportunities for people from different social backgrounds will social investment in human capital foster economic growth and fair social development in the long term.
1. Executive summary
The most important
Access to the Spanish education system occurs in a generalised manner from the age of 3. At the beginning of the century, only 4 in 100 children aged 3 to 6 were not schooled and, in 2016, that figure dropped to fewer than 2 in 100. However, early school leaving rates in Spain are very high. Thus, 1 in 5 young people aged 18 to 24 does not continue their studies beyond compulsory secondary education.
The rate of repetition of a school year among students from low social backgrounds is much higher than among those from other social backgrounds, and a gap in the level of competencies attained in mathematics and reading comprehension is detected between students who have repeated a school year and other students, to the detriment of the former. The level of segregation in classrooms by socioeconomic background is also higher than the European mean: 1 in 4 students should change school so that there is no segregation.
Although the trend over time is clearly one of improvement, between 5 and 10% of the Spanish population has difficulties in attaining sufficient competencies in primary education, and between 16 and 26% has difficulties in doing so in secondary education. In addition, the adult population’s access to a sufficient educational level has improved in the last two decades. The major unresolved issue of our system is an improvement in foreign language competencies.
In 2011, 1 in 2 people aged 25 to 64 whose parents had a low educational level did not manage to attain a higher educational level than their parents. The problem got smaller between 2005 and 2011 among people aged 25 to 64, but it got bigger among younger cohorts (aged 25 to 34), which is worrying because the educational level is a good indicator of financial level.
The most important
Early school leaving is much higher than the European mean in both the expansive and recessive stages. Repetition of a school year in secondary education is much higher than the European mean.
Spain is far from the European mean in sufficient foreign language competencies. This deficit is structural in nature, and it has changed very little in the last decade. Moreover, Spain is situated at the European mean with regard to the percentage of people who do not manage to attain sufficient mathematics competencies.
Regarding the persistence of a low educational level, the results are considerably worse than the European mean. In Spain, 1 in 2 people aged 25 to 64 whose parents have a low educational level does not manage to attain a higher educational level than their parents, whereas the ratio within the European context is 1 in 3.
1. Good in access, average in competencies, poor in foreign languages
The Spanish education system is characterised by high levels of access to early childhood education and by a marked improvement in access to all educational levels in recent decades, including higher education. The knowledge and competencies of primary and secondary education students are situated close to the European mean, with significant improvements in recent years, particularly in primary education. However, the results for foreign language competencies are far from the European mean. This deficit tends to be structural in nature, and it has changed very little in the last decade.
2. High rates of school leaving and repetition of a school year
School leaving after compulsory education is much higher than the European mean in both the expansive and recessive stages. Repetition of a school year in secondary education in Spain is much higher than the European mean. One in 5 young people aged 18 to 24 do not continue their studies by taking a baccalaureate, vocational education and training or any unregulated training course. The school leaving rate was even higher before 2009, and only the deep economic recession managed to bring it down due a lack of employment opportunities for people with a low educational level.
3. Public-sector, private-sector, publicly funded private-sector
Most of the 10 million students at all educational levels in Spain (from early childhood to university education) are enrolled in public-sector educational establishments: 7 in 10. Two in 10 students are enrolled in publicly funded private-sector educational establishments, and 1 in 10 in private-sector ones.
4. Intergenerational persistence of a low educational level
The intergenerational persistence of a low educational level is high in Spain compared to other European countries, and a certain worsening of this indicator is observed among younger cohorts. In Spain, 1 in 2 people aged 25 to 64 whose parents have a low educational level do not manage to attain a higher educational level than their parents. In the EU country mean, this only happens to 1 in 3 people.
5. High degree of segregation
The level of segregation by social background in Spanish educational establishments is high within the European context, which hampers the possibilities that the generalisation of education offers in terms of improving the opportunities of children born into the most vulnerable environments. Specifically, whereas 1 in 4 students in Spain should change educational establishment so that there is no segregation, only 1 in 5 should do so in the European country mean. Such segregation is basically explained by the concentration of students from low and high socioeconomic backgrounds in certain educational establishments.
6. Low per-student spending
Spain is one of the EU countries that spend the least on education in relation to both its economic level and per-student spending. As the financial crisis progressed, the volume of spending on education in Spain moved further away from the European mean. The biggest gap in per-student investment in resources is at university level, whereas per-student investment in primary and secondary education situates Spain close to the European country mean. Per-student public spending on education from ages 0 to 3 is below the European mean. So, despite the fact that access to early childhood education is becoming more generalised, families have to make a major financial effort to fund it. This may be hampering its potential positive impact on the development of cognitive and non-cognitive skills in young children from vulnerable environments.
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Contents of the collection
The role of schools in detecting gender violence
Sixty-eight per cent of minors who are exposed to gender violence in the home say nothing in the academic setting and teaching staff only perceive it if evident signs of violence exist. How can an effective model for the prevention of sexist violence be drawn up for primary and secondary schools?
The impact of gender-based violence on sons and daughters: the role of schools according to the pupils
Some 93% of children have heard of gender violence. Their preferential source of information is the school setting but, if faced with a situation of gender-based violence, they are unsure whether it would be the place to find help.
Call to support research projects on education and society (FS22-2B)
The aim of the call was to support social science research projects that use quantitative survey data on education and society in Spain.
Inequality of opportunity in educational performance in Spain and Europe
What lies behind educational inequalities? Factors beyond students’ control (such as gender, background, or parents’ financial or cultural status) explain 32% of the differences in their academic performance.
Series of seminars at CaixaForum Macaya: “Learning ecosystems: educational innovation and collaboration”
What is dual vocational education and training? How can truly inclusive education be achieved? What should we understand by learning platform? Together with the Education Sciences Institute (ICE-UPC), we are organising this series of seminars to address the new education ecosystems.