ANN CAHILL: EU: Education cuts undermine potential

Cuts in education budgets risk undermining the economy’s growth potential, the EU has warned Ireland as the country moves closer to the bottom of the international league table in spending on schools.

Ireland is one of only three EU countries to reduce spending across a range of education, including student support, teachers and infrastructure, according to a report.

It says the crisis is severely affecting prospects for young people in particular, with youth unemployment now over 20% across the EU. Ireland has one of the highest levels at over 30%.

The report, issued by the European Commission, warns that the EU generally is due to miss its target of reducing the number of early school-leavers to 10% and pointing out that this group was the most likely to be out of work.

Ireland is among those close to achieving the 10% target, but budget cuts of more than 2% this year threaten this aim now.

The key to keeping young people in school longer is through teacher education, quality early childhood education and providing a blend of general secondary education with vocational education and training, the report says.

Improving educational achievements among students is another must to generate growth and jobs, and a target of having 85% of students attain basic skills by 2020 could generate huge long-term economic gains, the report says.

The report will be discussed by education ministers from EU countries when they meet in Brussels tomorrow.

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