The situation in Spain
The analysis of education-related social needs by means of a system of basic indicators poses three different challenges: firstly, access to the education system; secondly, whether those who access education do so with the possibility of attaining adequate competencies to contribute to a developed society; and thirdly, whether the education system they access promotes equal life opportunities for people from different social backgrounds and, by investing in human capital, therefore effectively promotes social and economic development in the long term.
The information collected by means of the proposed indicators sheds light on the strengths and weaknesses of the Spanish education system. All the access indicators have significantly improved in the last two decades apart from the one measuring early school leaving, whereas the knowledge and competency indicators have slowly improved apart from the one measuring foreign language knowledge. Lastly, the indicators for the third challenge relating to equal educational opportunities for people from different social backgrounds show a clear difference to the detriment of people from lower social backgrounds in terms of attaining competencies, the probability of repeating a school year, and the persistence of low educational levels generation after generation.
1. First challenge:
Having access to quality education
The population’s well-being is closely related to possibilities of accessing education. The ease or difficulty in accessing schooling is usually assessed by means of net schooling rates, i.e., people of that age who are enrolled in any of the school years within the education system. Presented in the indicators for the first challenge are the schooling rates for different age ranges prior to compulsory education: children younger than 3 years old and those aged 3 to 6. As can be seen, Spain has high early childhood education rates: 98% of children aged 3 or over are schooled, whereas the mean rate for OECD countries is situated at 76% (OECD, 2018a). In general, Spain also displays a high level of interregional equality in relation to this aspect, as practically no variation between the regions was recorded for the enrolment rates of 3-year-olds (OECD, 2018a). In addition, more and more parents have schooled their under 3-year-old children in the last decade. Currently, 1 in 3 children of that age are schooled.
However, simply having access to schooling does not guarantee that people will attain a certain educational level. That is why it is necessary to use other indicators that can provide information about the educational level attained: sufficient (compulsory education), medium (baccalaureate [a post-16 educational qualification in Spain], vocational education and training or similar studies) and high (university or equivalent studies). The indicators show that, in the last two decades, there has been a marked improvement in the Spanish population’s medium educational level. More specifically, in 2004, 1 in 3 people aged 25 to 64 had not attained a sufficient educational level to enable them to develop a minimum of skills and to acquire basic competencies. In other words, they had managed, at the very most, to complete primary education but had not completed lower secondary education. Fortunately, that percentage has fallen drastically, and now only 1 in 10 people do not attain a sufficient educational level.
Regarding the educational levels beyond compulsory education, the trend is also positive, albeit to a lesser extent, in both intermediate and higher studies. Whereas, in 2004, more than half of the population aged 25 to 64 had not managed to attain intermediate studies (baccalaureate, vocational education and training or similar studies), that level is now attained by 60% of the population within that age range and by 70% of the population if we focus solely on younger people aged 25 to 29. In 2000, 4 in 10 people aged 25 to
64 had not completed compulsory education (primary and lower secondary education), whereas, in 2018, only 1 in 10 people did not manage to do so. The number of people who do not attain a medium educational level (baccalaureate or any branch of vocational education and training) has also fallen. It went from 6 in 10 people in 2000 to 4 in 10 in 2018. Among those who do not attain a high educational level, 21% finished the baccalaureate and 15% finished the intermediate level of vocational education and training, whereas, at the beginning of the century, only 13% and 7% managed to do so, respectively.
The results are similar in the high educational level. Whereas, in 2004, nearly 3 in 4 people aged 25 to 64 had not attained a high educational level, now the figures for this group are slightly lower (10 percentage points lower, falling from 73% to 63% of people in this age range). If we focus on younger people, almost 1 in 2 people aged 25 to 29 managed to attain a high educational level.
As a negative indicator, and despite the improvements in schooling rates and the educational levels that the population attains, the percentage of people who leave school early in Spain is very high. They are people aged 18 to 24 who, regardless of whether they have finished lower compulsory secondary education, do not continue their studies by taking a baccalaureate, vocational education and training or any unregulated training course. Currently, 1 in 5 young people aged 18 to 24 are in that situation. As underscored by Gortázar (2018), the economic boom of the 1990s, the bubble in the construction sector and other low-productivity sectors changed the qualification needs for the workforce and altered a whole generation’s financial motivations and decisions, which led to early school leaving from 1998 to 2008 of up to 32%. While today’s figures are better than they were in 2008, when the problem affected almost 1 in 3 people, it is important to underscore that only the deep economic recession managed to bring such leaving down due to a lack of employment opportunities for people with a low educational level.
EARLY EDUCATION AND WORK-LIFE BALANCE: SCHOOLING OF CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 3 YEARS OLD AND PARENTAL LEAVE
As underscored in the study by Cebolla-Boado et al. (2014), the initial educational stages, and especially the preschool stage (ages 0 to 6), can be decisive when it comes to getting good academic results in adult years. It is precisely in these early stages that the compensatory nature of schooling as an instrument that equalises opportunities and reduces social disadvantages is most decisive. Thus, there is broad consensus on the benefits of children attending early childhood education schools, particularly in relation to the improvement in cognitive abilities, language acquisition and academic performance. Those who benefit the most are children from humble families and those whose parents do not invest quite as much in active teaching. The authors underscore that standardising the curriculum of such schools would enhance its equalising potential. In Spain, the level of schooling of children younger than 3 years old is relatively high within the European context. Both the gradual increase in the rate of women’s participation in the labour market and the generalisation of free public-sector education at the next preschool stage (ages 3 to 6) have contributed to families taking the decision to enrol children aged 1 to 2 in an educational establishment.
The first figure shows that the net schooling rates for children younger than 3 years old and the mean rate of 25-to-49-year-old women’s participation in the labour market have grown simultaneously. That rate is now nearly 85%, and 6 in 10 2-yearold children and almost 4 in 10 children younger than that age are schooled. The enrolment of children at both privateand public-sector early childhood education schools has increased significantly in Spain in the last two decades and, as shown in Figure 3, it is currently higher than the EU mean. The net schooling rates for this age range in Spain are higher than those in every other Mediterranean country and many central and northern European countries, such as Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Another tool for early stimulation and cognitive development is parental leave, which not only facilitates greater interaction between the newborn and its parents, but also has clear implications for worklife balance. Broadly speaking, according to the comparison presented by the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS), in 2016, maternity and paternity leave in European countries was paid at somewhere between 65 and 100% of full pay. Maternity leave varied in duration from 10 weeks in Portugal to 58 weeks in Bulgaria, whereas paternity leave is usually much shorter. It varied between 2 days in the Netherlands and 10 weeks in Slovenia (or 9 in Finland). Within this context, Spain is situated at the European mean for maternity leave, which is 16 weeks long. However, Spain’s paternity leave was relatively short (2 days) until 2007, when it was extended to 15 days. A decade later, in 2017, it was extended to 4 weeks. Recently, paternity leave has been further extended to 8 weeks, which situates Spain well above the most usual length for such leave (2 weeks) in EU countries.
2. Second challenge:
Having the possibility to gain adequate knowledge that contributes to society’s development
A second key aspect of the population’s education-related needs is the quality of the knowledge and competencies that education provides. It is about measuring whether the knowledge that people acquire in the different educational stages is adequate for contributing to society’s economic and cultural development.
The indicators for the second challenge centre on knowledge and competencies in mathematics, reading comprehension and foreign languages, and they measure the percentage of primary education students aged 9, secondary education students aged 15, and adults who do not attain competencies that are deemed sufficient in those subjects. Information on knowledge is limited in some instances because not all the surveys are carried out for all years. In fact, for primary education, we only have three surveys available: PIRLS for 2006, 2011 and 2016, and TIMSS for 2011 and 2015.
The results point to an improvement in mathematics and reading comprehension knowledge in primary education between 2001 and 2015 or 2016. In mathematics, the number of primary education children who did not attain sufficient knowledge fell by almost half (from 12.7% to 7%) in a short period of time (between 2011 and 2015). Something similar happened in reading comprehension. Only 3% of primary education children did not attain sufficient knowledge in 2016, a percentage that was significantly lower than in 2011 (6%).
The most comprehensive data series come from PISA and centre on 15-year-old students in compulsory secondary education, which enables information to be had for this age range in six different years since 2000. The results vary from year to year, but broadly speaking, the values have remained the same in the last two decades. Approximately 1 in 4 students do not have sufficient mathematics knowledge and, depending on the year, 1 in 5 or 6 do not have sufficient reading comprehension knowledge.
The last indicator taken into consideration is the one that measures competencies in foreign language use as an adult, the results for which were worse than those for the previous ones. Almost half of the Spanish population claims not to have sufficient competencies in foreign language speaking. This percentage fell slightly between 2011 and 2016 from 49% to 46% of the population. An improvement in foreign language competencies remains an unresolved issue in the Spanish education system.
FUNCTIONING OF INTERMEDIATE STUDIES AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING: SPAIN vs EUROPE
For several decades, intermediate vocational education and training studies in Spain have been considered the worst educational path for young people. The OECD (2018a) has compared the education systems of 35 countries and has concluded that the qualification rate on vocational education and training programmes in Spain (25%) is significantly lower than in other countries, and is below the OECD mean (36%) and well below the EU-22 mean (41%). However, the qualification rates on general programmes that lead to university education (basically the baccalaureate), which are situated at around 50%, are similar to those in other countries. Balancing out these percentages would seem desirable, as would trying to reduce the number of adults who do not manage to finish their upper secondary education. One of the tools to attain that objective could be the reinforcement of intermediate and upper levels of vocational education and training to make them more attractive.
The first figure shows that the percentage of young people aged 15 to 19 in Spain who are enrolled in upper vocational education and training is very low. Only 12% of people in this age range are enrolled in this type of training, whereas in other European countries such as Italy, the percentage is higher than 40%, and the European mean is situated at around 25%, which is twice the rate of those enrolled in Spain in 2016.
Nevertheless, as shown in the second figure, the trend in the last decade is clearly positive because the number of students enrolled in different educational levels of vocational education and training increased considerably, and particularly so from the start of the crisis in 2008. Between the 2007/2008 and 2016/2017 academic years, the number of students enrolled in intermediate and upper vocational education and training increased by 44%, from 450,000 to 650,000 students, approximately. When taking gender into consideration, that increase was found to be asymmetrical. In the enrolment rate, there was a shift towards higher numbers of male students, while the percentage of female students fell from almost half (49%) in 2008 to 44% in 2017.
HOW TO IMPROVE LEARNING: TEACHING STAFF’S TRAINING, ACTIVITIES AND SATISFACTION
In the educational process, there are important elements that determine how learning functions, and they play a major role in knowledge acquisition. Such elements relate to the teaching staff ’s characteristics, training and satisfaction, as well as the number of teaching hours and their organisation, educational establishments’ degree of autonomy, the subjects that are allocated more time in the timetable, and the different educational options that the system offers. Regarding teaching staff, OECD data (2018a) show that, in primary education, 33% of teachers are over 50 years old and 9% are under 30 years old. Although there is a higher percentage of older teachers in Spain when compared to the OECD mean, the differences are not great. In secondary education, the situation is similar to that in other OECD countries with regard to middle-aged and over 50-yearold teachers, but the number of young teachers (under 30 years old) is very low at just 3.3% of teaching staff. In comparison, the OECD mean (10.4%) is more than triple that percentage. Comparing the teaching staff ’s activities in terms of distribution of tasks by hour, Spanish teaching staff spend more time on in-class teaching (direct teaching) than the OECD mean and the mean of 22 countries of the EU. Half of their working time is spent on such teaching, whereas teachers in other countries spend less time on that task (44% of the total). As shown in this figure, Spanish teachers may spend relatively little of their working time on planning and preparing the subjects they teach. This contrasts with what happens in Portugal, the Czech Republic and Denmark, which stand out in regard to this aspect by being above the OECD mean. Portuguese teachers spend almost 30% more time than their Spanish counterparts (8.5 hours compared to 6.6 hours) on the task of planning and preparing.
Lastly, regarding educational establishments’ degree of autonomy, the OECD (2018a) underscores that, in Spain, a high percentage of decisions in secondary education are taken by the authorities, and the percentage of those taken at the educational establishment level is very low when compared to what happens in other countries. This piece of information is important because the report points out that, in countries where there is a good mix of autonomy and accountability, the students’ competency outcomes are better.
3. Third challenge:
Forming part of an inclusive education system
The third challenge relating to the population’s education-related needs is that the education system should be inclusive and that the population should be able to access to a system that promotes equal life opportunities for people from different social backgrounds. The main idea underlying this need is that, by investing in human capital, economic growth can be promoted at the same time as progress is made towards balanced social development in the long term.
This challenge includes different aspects relating to accessibility to stimulating educational environments for people from lower social backgrounds, as well as to the asymmetric effect of phenomena such as the repetition of a school year by social background or the evolution of spending by families whose younger members are in educational stages.
The indicators of this third challenge show us that, in Spain, 1 in 2 people whose parents had a low educational level did not manage to attain a higher educational level than their parents. This persistence of low educational levels in two consecutive generations is higher than the European mean, where this happens on average to only 1 in 3 people from this group. The greatest concern is that, among young people aged 25 to 34, the trend is not very encouraging because the persistence of low educational levels from one generation to the next has increased in the last decade.
It should be pointed out that Spain starts from a disadvantaged position in terms of the population’s educational levels. In 2011, 3 in 4 people aged 25 to 64 had parents who had only been able to attain a low educational level (i.e., at the very most, they had completed compulsory education, which was up to the age of 14 at that time), whereas in Germany in that same year, that only happened to approximately 1 in 10 people of that age. It seems clear that the rapid social improvements that took place in Spain after the country’s transition to democracy allowed many people from humble backgrounds to access a higher level of income than their parents had. This unprecedented social change has been key with regard to the recent OECD report (2018b) situating Spain among the countries with a relatively high level of intergenerational income mobility within the European context, in a good position after the Nordic countries.
Unfortunately, this so-called ‘social elevator’, which has been quite effective in terms of improving income, does not seem to have had so much success in terms of educational or occupational mobility and, in line with other Mediterranean countries, the OECD (2018b) found a poorer behaviour of educational and occupational mobility in Spain. The data are revealing: whereas, in the OECD mean, the ratio of senior managers whose parents were manual workers is 1 in 4, in Spain it is less than 1 in 5. Likewise, half of manual workers’ children retain that status in Spain, whereas in the OECD mean, that only happens in a third of the cases.
Based on information from two modules of the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) for 2005 and 2011 and from EADA for 2016, in our results we also observed that hindrance to the social elevator in the education of younger people (aged 25 to 34). We therefore confirmed, as underscored by Avram and Cantó (2017), that social background is a determinant of employment quality for people with the same educational level, which condemns broad strata of the population to jobs that are not only more insecure and poorly paid, but also have worse associated benefits. In addition, the aforementioned authors concluded that, during the crisis period, social advantage enabled people from families with greater resources to cope better with the financial setbacks of it. Recently, the findings of Salazar et al. (2019) have also pointed to the fact that the crisis lowered the expectations of adolescent students (14-year-olds), especially among those whose competencies were at the mean, which resulted in an increase in the role that social background plays in educational inequalities.
Another indicator in which big differences by students’ socioeconomic background were recorded is the repetition of a school year in secondary education. If parents have a low socioeconomic level, 1 in 2 students repeat a school year, whereas this only happens to 1 in 9 students if their parents have a high socioeconomic level. García-Pérez et al. (2014) and Choi et al. (2016) concluded that the repetition of a school year does not improve students’ learning or competencies and, in many cases, it has a negative impact on academic performance. Consequently, these differences by social origin further in-crease the probability of school leaving among students from families with a low socioeconomic level.
Social background also has repercussions on the competencies that students acquire in mathematics and especially in reading comprehension. In 2015, the percentage of people who did not attain sufficient competencies in both areas was three times higher among students from low social backgrounds than among those from high social backgrounds.
Lastly, an inclusive education system should not require overly burdensome private spending on books, school materials, fees or any other learning-related need at school. If it did, the achievement of learning objectives could differ depending on the purchasing power of the families in which students live. To analyse whether there have been any changes in the cost of education for Spanish families in the last decade, we constructed an indicator that measures the percentage of people living in families with members under the age of 25 in which private spending on education is higher than 10% of total family spending. Such spending includes the cost of textbooks and regular payments to educational establishments offering primary, secondary, baccalaureate, vocational education and training, and higher education (fees, registration, etc.), including master’s degree, language and information technology courses, as well as payments to academies or private tutors.
The results reveal that, in 2006, 2.4% of the population fell within this group and that the figure has doubled since then. Currently, 6% of people exceed that level of spending. The burden of private spending on education as a proportion of total spending differs significantly between families with different income levels. Thus, the percentage of the population whose spending on education-related goods and services is higher than 10% of total spending increases as family income increases. Only 2.5% of the population that falls within the poorest 20% (first quintile) allocates more than 10% of total spending to educational goods and services, whereas nearly 14% of the population that falls within the wealthiest 20% does so. At all income levels, the percentage of the population that incurred such spending increased from 2006 to 2017. It doubled for the poorest and tripled for the wealthiest.
SPENDING ON EDUCATION BY INCOME LEVELS AND BY PRIVATE-SECTOR, PUBLIC-SECTOR AND PUBLICLY FUNDED PRIVATE-SECTOR EDUCATION
The evolution of private spending on education by families whose younger members are in educational stages is relevant for the purpose of measuring the extent to which quality education requires households to have a medium or high income level and whether the low income level of the humblest families hampers educational possibilities.
To perform a detailed analysis of educational spending by income level, we present an additional exploitation of the Survey of Household Spending on Education (EGHE, as abbreviated in Spanish), which was carried out in the 2011/2012 academic year to assess the costs of education-related goods and services bought by Spanish families. It enables an estimate to be made of the mean per-student investment that studying at different educational levels entails for households. That survey was carried out by Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE) within the framework of EPF, and it is based on a pilot module carried out in 2007.
Regarding the proportion of students by educational establishment ownership, it was found that most of the 10 million students at all educational levels (from early childhood to university education) are enrolled in public-sector educational establishments: 7 in 10 are enrolled in public-sector ones, 2 in 10 in publicly funded private-sector ones, and 1 in 10 in private-sector ones. As shown in the figure, it is quite usual for students in public-sector education to only attend regular classes and not to access extracurricular activities or services at the educational establishment (only 2 in 10 do so) or complementary activities (6 in 10 do so). In contrast, students in publicly funded private- sector education have much more access to extracurricular activities and services at the educational establishment (nearly 4 in 10 do so) and complementary activities (nearly 9 in 10 do so).
Analysing mean per-student spending by educational establishment ownership, it is possible to see that the annual cost to a family of enrolling a student at a public-sector educational establishment is half the cost of doing so at a publicly funded private-sector educational establishment and quarter of the cost of doing so at a private-sector educational establishment. The biggest cost to families whose children attend public-sector educational establishments is textbooks and uniforms, as well as complementary activities and services at the establishment.
To perform a more in-depth analysis of the different levels of financial effort that families need to make in terms of buying educational goods and services by their income level, we calculated mean spending on education by families’ disposable income. The figure shows that spending on education does not grow proportionally to disposable income, but instead that the differences between groups become bigger as family income increases. The poorest families’ annual mean spending on education is €422, which is less than half the amount that middle- class families spend (€928), whereas the wealthiest families spend €3,136 on average, nearly two-and-a-half times the amount that middle-class families do.
Lastly, this figure distinguishes between the different types of goods and services on which families spend money. Spending on textbooks, uniforms, etc. and spending on extracurricular support activities outside the educational establishment represent a higher proportion of humble families’ spending on education because their cost does not differ significantly at any income level. In contrast, other spending on complementary services such as meals, accommodation or transport, and spending on extracurricular activities at the educational establishment represent a higher proportion of spending on education as families’ income levels increase.
Lastly, in this challenge we considered it very important to measure the degree of segregation in schools by student’s socioeconomic background. The literature studying the repercussions of segregating students by socioeconomic background at different educational establishments has identified impacts on learning, competencies and social integration, and concludes that it is a major hindrance to schools playing a decisive role in social cohesion. The more segregated a school is, the more it will reproduce and perpetuate existing inequalities in society, thereby preventing the benefits of a social mix. To measure segregation, we have used a very simple indicator that also enables it to be measured in each socioeconomic group of interest (students from low, medium and high social backgrounds) in relation to the education system as a whole. The interpretation of this index of local segregation is more intuitive and easier to understand: it is the percentage of students who would have to change educational establishment so that there is no segregation in the education system.
The results reveal that school segregation tends to be structural in nature, and there have been few changes in the period analysed. It was situated between 21.4% and 23.8% with a certain downward tendency between 2003 and 2012 and slight increase from then to 2015. This result indicates that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 students should change school so that there is no segregation. Eighty percent of such segregation is explained by the concentration of students from low and high socioeconomic backgrounds in certain educational establishments. In other words, nearly 1 in 2 students from high or low socioeconomic backgrounds should change educational establishment so that there is no segregation. In contrast, students from a medium socioeconomic background contribute to just 20% of total segregation, which indicates that there is a much better distribution of these students across educational establishments.
SEGREGATION IN CLASSROOMS BY SOCIOECONOMIC LEVEL: URBAN AND RURAL AREAS
School segregation in Spain is explained by the concentration of students from a high socioeconomic background in some educational establishments and students from a low socioeconomic background in others. The first factor (segregation of students of a high socioeconomic level) has a little more bearing on total segregation. If we analyse the differences in school segregation by Autonomous Community, we can see that the Autonomous Communities with the most segregation are Madrid and Catalonia, which is considerably higher than in all the others. This leads us to think that, in those territories, a number of differentiating elements might be triggering increased school segregation by social background. On the one hand, such differences could be explained by a greater residential segregation in big cities and by a higher proportion of private- sector and publicly funded private-sector educational establishments in those regions. On the other hand, the generalisation of single-district education policies and legislative reforms in relation to the scores needed to access educational establishments, and particularly those in the Community of Madrid, almost certainly plays an important role in explaining this phenomenon.
Contents of the collection
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.
Vocational Training in Catalonia: academic performance, dual VET, and gender
While women continue to opt for more socially-oriented courses, this report points out that the occupations most necessary in 2030 will be those linked to the digital economy.
Can inclusive citizenship skills be taught while building universities that are more socially engaged?
How can empathy and moral principles be encouraged to promote more inclusive citizenship? This experiment was conducted within a university context and we explain its results.
Percentage of people who, in 2017, were of the opinion that the highest education level they had achieved was...
Of the Spanish population, 58% were of the opinion that they had exceeded their father’s education level and 64% thought that they had exceeded their mother’s education level.
Remedial education for primary-school children: a useful measure for immigrant pupils?
Do remedial education programmes aimed at students from underprivileged groups work? This study shows that they only manage to benefit immigrant pupils if the proportion of them in the school group does not exceed 50%.