Alarming regional inequalities in education

The education system’s deficiencies when it comes to educating people and funding as compared to those of most of the EU member-states are well-known and the subject of much debate. But regional inequalities in education and how these are linked to regional income disparities are relatively unknown. This article examines these inequalities on the basis of statistics from Eurostat concerning the educational level of 25-29-year-olds in 1998 for all the regions of the EU member states, in conjunction with the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in units of purchasing power (UPPs) in the same regions for the same year. The table below gives the percentages of those in the above age group with primary, secondary and tertiary education (first, second and third column respectively) in 13 regions of the country and the per capita GDP in UPPs of the same year (fourth column). In the second-to-last row, the corresponding figures for the country as a whole are given and in the last row, the figures for the EU as a whole. When these two last rows are compared, it is clear that Greece is lagging behind the EU in the average level of education of 25-29-year-olds. The percentage of the population in Greece which has not been educated beyond primary school is 27 percent higher, of those with a secondary education, 18 percent lower, and of those with a tertiary education, 15 percent lower, than the EU average. One of the reasons for this difference is that the per capita GDP in UPPs is 34 percent lower in Greece as against the EU average. (See last column in the table.) The lower level of education is linked to the lower percentage of GDP spent on education (3.5 percent) as compared to the average percentage in the EU member states. If the level of education in the 13 regions of the country is examined, it is observable that: The highest percentage of the population with secondary and tertiary education and the lowest with just primary education is to be found in Attica – where, according to the latest census figures, 34.4 percent of the population live – followed by Central Macedonia with 17 percent of the country’s total population. These two regions, apart from the higher-than-average per capita GDP in UPPs, also have the most numerous and biggest universities and technical colleges in the country, as well as the largest concentration of public and private services and businesses employing personnel with a higher-than-average level of education. The highest percentage of those with only a primary school education is in Central Greece and the southern Aegean. The lowest percentage of those with a secondary education is to be found in Thessaly and Epirus, and the lowest percentage of those with a tertiary education is also to be found in Central Greece and the southern Aegean. The greatest differences between the regions are in the percentages of the population with tertiary education, and then of those with only primary education. To answer the question of if, and to what extent, the level of education is linked to per capita GDP in UPPs, it should be noted that three of the 13 regions have peculiarities which exclude them from consideration. Central Greece has prefectures with large productive units generating a significant proportion of the GDP which, as it is in the form of exports of raw materials and manufactured goods, does not translate into income for the inhabitants. The southern Aegean and Crete have a low population density and productive activities which contribute to children not being educated beyond primary school. These three areas account for 13.8 percent of the country’s population. But in the remaining 10 regions, which account for 86.2 percent of the country’s population, it is observable that there is a very close relationship between the level of education and per capita GDP in UPPs. The higher the latter, the higher the level of education in a region. It is therefore clear that policies which would increase economic growth in less advantaged regions would also raise the level of education, while this would in its turn contribute to the further economic development of those regions. ,Manolis Drettakis is a former Speaker of Parliament, a professor of the Athens University of Economics and Business, and the former minister for the economy. According to the Greek scientific team, cyanobacterial toxins were first observed in 1987 in the lakes of Vegoritida, Koroneia, Volvi and Kastoria. However, in Greece to date there have been no reports linking cyanobacterial toxins to poisoning or the deaths of animals or plants.

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