DRAFT 6/26/00

WP1 SYNTHESIS REPORT

Executive Summary

In this study, changes over time in the educational routes followed and levels of education acquired by different generations are analysed for five European countries France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The aim of the study is to compare across countries the processes which lead to rising levels of education; to identify variables associated with this process and to contribute to the wider EDEX research project.

The study of educational processes and structures experienced by different generations leads to the conclusion that in all the countries studied the great majority of qualifications/certifications are acquired in initial education and training before the age of 30. As a consequence, the stock of qualifications/certification held by a particular generation will not vary substantially during their working lives. This conclusion underpins the further work of the EDEX project on labour market response to educational expansion.

The methodology adopted for this study rests essentially on two types of analysis. First, in each country, flows of individuals through educational systems and structures at four different points in time (circa 1950, 1960, 1970 and 1980) are analysed. Second, data is assembled on highest qualification obtained by the population of different generations as revealed by Labour Force Surveys in each country. Finally, information from the two sources, flow data and stock data is combined to provide an understanding of changes in patterns of participation over time and in all five countries in the different levels and types of education.

In the five countries there was a strong increase in the proportion of a cohort obtaining a Baccalaureat-type and/or Higher Education (HE) qualification in 1990 compared to 1950. Growth rates (percentage of cohort reaching Bac/HE level) over the period 1950-1990 were higher for France, Italy and Spain than for Germany and the UK. For the latest cohort observed (born around 1970) France, Italy and Spain have higher proportions at Bac/HE level than Germany and the UK.

The analysis of flows for each country is provided by national reports in which the typical percentages/proportions of a particular generation arriving at each successive stage of the education system are given. By first comparing within countries the changes in these flows for successive generations, and then comparing across countries, the processes which produced a change in stocks of qualifications in the labour force can be more clearly identified and studied.

The study analyses for each country the development of education structures and participation over the period 1950-1990 and highlights points of contrast and convergence. From the analysis of these changing flows within countries similarities and differences between countries in the management of flows can be identified and the relative weight of associated social and economic variables estimated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The principal factors identified as influencing changes in the supply of qualified/certificated individuals over time can be summarised as follows:

A high level of state responsibility for educational provision is found in France, Italy and Spain where the state prescribes the structure, finances and administers at all levels including HE. Most important decisions concerning finance, curriculum and major structural change are taken by a central Ministry. To all intents and purposes these countries can be characterised as single provider countries. In the UK and Germany the degree of state responsibility is less; in both countries decision-making is devolved to regional/local bodies; apprenticeship in Germany and vocational education and training in the UK are principally the responsibility of firms. In the most recent period studied, a single provider system appears to produce a variety of well-articulated pathways to higher level qualifications which offer a high probability of a successful outcome. The attraction of the labour market is less in these countries than in eg Germany and the UK (as shown by high proportions choosing labour market entry rather than further study). In countries with multiple providers the variety of pathways provided within the full-time education structures is less and probability of a successful outcome is also lower than in the single-provider countries. However, short-term labour market prospects for those who do not take the full-time academic route are better than in the single provider countries.

All the countries studied have put in place legislation extending the period of compulsory schooling in the course of the last 50-60 years. This can be interpreted principally as a response to concerns to improve the distribution of human capital (equity) and to promote the development of meritocracy. As a consequence the proportion of the population in each successive generation having some educational qualifications/certification has risen substantially in every country studied. Concerns with economic performance have characterised legislation with regard to post-compulsory education. In all five countries there is universal entitlement to post-compulsory education and/or training. This is normally dependent on a combination of educational attainment in compulsory education and parental wishes.

The first of the three factors noted above, (single versus multiple provider) explains why (where democratic government is in place) social pressure for greater access to education has been more effective in promoting increased participation in education. Associated with this type of provision however, we find strong corporatist pressures from within the structure of educational provision which aim principally to serve professional interests. France, Italy and Spain post 1970 are strongly influenced by the effect of this first factor, Germany and the UK less so.

The second factor outlined above, the expression of democratic pressure for greater access to educational provision, and state concern to promote social and economic welfare can be observed in all the countries studied. Except for Spain (where reform was delayed until 1970) pressures first produced change in provisions and access in the 1960s, followed by a series of smaller adjustments in the 1980s.

Extensions of state responsibility for the financing of provision, and legislation to open up access have contributed to remove/reduce structural and financial barriers to access. Parents and students then have a greater degree of freedom of choice as to whether to continue in education and training following the end of compulsory education. Within the context of the prevailing structure of provision and perceived probability of a successful outcome, parents and students make decisions about whether/where to invest in post-compulsory education.

Decisions about participation in post-compulsory education are made on a cost-benefit basis by parents and students. The set of factors which influence this choice are complex. While parents and students may make decisions on the basis of likely wage differentials for different levels of qualification they may also aim for non-monetary returns, for example status associated with a particular profession, qualification or trade. However, it is clear from the different growth rates 1950-90 of post-secondary and HE in the five countries studied that parents and students reach very different conclusions about costs and benefits of investment in post-secondary education and training in the five countries. Some elements of the cost-benefit calculation identified, which vary between countries and may therefore help to explain different growth rates, are summarised below (Table 1).

 

Table 1 Cost-benefit of further full-time study 16-19 following compulsory education

Direct Subsidy to parent/student

(i.e. allowance or scholarship)

Transparency of qualification on labour market

Job/qualifications link

( qualifications recognised in collective agreements)

France

Low/zero

Low

Yes

High

Yes

Italy

Low/medium

Low

No

Medium

?

Spain

Low

Low

?

?

Yes

Germany

Medium/high

Low

No (?)

Medium

Yes

UK

Medium

Zero

No

Low*/High*

No