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Education in SpainThe Spanish education system does not match up to the standards of the rest of Europe or other developed nations. However, the government is doing its best to put measures in place aimed at improving these standards. Below are eight facts about education in Spain:

8 Facts About Education in Spain

  1. The current system of education in Spain, also known as the Ley Orgánica de Educación (LOE), or the Fundamental Law of Education, means that education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. This system also typically requires parents to pay for books and other materials such as uniforms.
  2. It is estimated that as of 2016, 98.3 percent of the population in Spain is literate. This is largely attributable to the 10 years of compulsory education.
  3. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport generally oversees education in Spain. However, each of the 17 autonomous regions in the country can make most of the decisions regarding their systems.
  4. Schools are categorized in three ways, there are state schools that are fully funded by the state, privately-run schools which are funded partly by the state and partly by private investors and purely private schools. A majority of Spanish students, 68 percent to be exact, attend state schools. This compares to only 6 percent of students who attend purely private schools.
  5. There are four levels of education in Spain. The first is a nursery or preschool, which is optional. Next comes six years of primary, which is the first stage of compulsory education, followed by compulsory secondary education for four years. Finally, there is an optional level of upper secondary education. At the primary level, the average number of students per class is around 25. While in secondary, the average number of students per class is around 30.
  6. A 2019 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Spain experiences more class time than both the European Union and OECD averages. The difference is more pronounced in high school, where Spain’s class time per year is 1,045 hours. This compares to the EU average of 893 hours, while the OECD average consists of 910 hours. This doesn’t seem to have any positive outcome, considering Spanish students perform worse on average than other students regarding the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. PISA experts believe the problem lies in the teaching methods, as Spanish students tend to memorize information instead of trying to find their own solution to problems.
  7. From pre-primary to secondary education, the enrollment rate was above 90 percent at each level in 2017. However, for tertiary education, the enrollment rate falls to 88.85 percent during the same period. Again, this is attributable to the fact that tertiary education is neither compulsory nor free. Interestingly, more girls than boys enrolled at each stage of education. This includes a marked difference at the tertiary level where the enrolment rate for females is 97 percent compared to 81 percent for males.  However, Spain also faces the greatest number of school dropouts in the EU.
  8. The government expenditure on education has steadily declined since 2009, including spending of 4.87 percent of the GDP on education, compared to 4.21 percent in 2016. This puts makes Spain on the tail-end of European countries when it comes to governmental education spending

While there are positives surrounding education in Spain, the situation requires additional efforts. With increased investment by the government and improved policies, schools will be able to afford more resources, hire more teachers and reduce the ratio of students to teachers. In doing so, students can receive more personalized attention and a better academic experience. Further, this will improve the quality of education and possibly reduce the time spent by students in the class. Finally, these enhancements will likely decrease the unemployment rate and greatly improve the quality of life in Spain.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty Rate in Austria

Austria is a nation with nearly 8.7 million citizens that lies in the center of Europe. In 2015, Austria was deemed one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Because of this large statistic, only four percent of the population fall beneath the poverty line. Consequently, the poverty rate in Austria very small.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the poverty rate is the ratio of the number of people whose earnings fall below the poverty line. The poverty line is half the median household revenue of the total population. The World Factbook shows poverty is on the minor end of the spectrum in Austria but, despite low percentages, continues to exist.

Children 17 years old and younger are most affected. A 2016 OECD report shows that 9.1 percent of Austrian children live in a household with a disposable income of less than half of the Austrian median income. This number was seven percent in 2007. It is also interesting to note that among children living in Austria, 17.5 percent say that they have been bullied in the last two months. This is the second highest share in the OECD area.

In an evaluation of Austria’s well-being for 2016, the country performed close to the OECD average. Austrian households have higher net adjusted disposable income and experience lower work insecurity.

However, The Economic Survey of Austria of 2017 shows Austria is struggling to adjust towards digitalization. Digital transformation is altering the relationship between the wealthy and the poor. Well-educated people are adjusting quickly to global trends in technology, while older generations, the less educated and immigrants are falling behind. This creates unequal opportunity within the country and raises questions about those on the lower end entering the future workforce.

While Austria continues to struggle with growing child poverty rates and the digital era, 94.4 percent of Austrians are satisfied with the quality of water and air in the region. In regard to support, 92.5 percent of Austrians report having friends or relatives that they can rely on in times of trouble.

Based on economic status and results of well-being, the poverty rate in Austria can be drastically reduced. A possible solution to Austria’s largest problems could be an increase in the state budget for welfare assistance. The State could also create support structures for children being bullied or coming into school systems from low-income families. Equal opportunity and digital training must also be available for anyone entering the workforce so that older generations, the less educated and immigrants don’t get left behind.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in Iceland
Iceland is a small country in Northern Europe home to about 332,000 people. The nation, which is a bit smaller than Cuba, is a Nordic island nation governed by a parliamentary constitutional republic. Iceland‘s size has not held the country back from becoming a world leader. In fact, the poverty rate in Iceland is one of the best in the world.

Poverty rates help us to understand people’s economic circumstances by looking at the ratio of people whose income is below poverty line and taking that as half the median household income of the total population, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The total poverty rate ratio in Iceland is 0.065. Many of the other Nordic countries, such as Norway and Finland, also post very impressive poverty rates.

Iceland’s unemployment rate, another key economic indicator, is also very low. These successes can be at least in part attributed to the nation’s robust commitment to open-market policies, which result in outstanding flows of trade and investment.

It is important to remember that Iceland’s economy was not always so strong. About 10 years ago, Iceland’s stock market lost 80 percent of its value overnight. However, in recent years, the economy has received a tremendous boost thanks to tourism.

Why has tourism become so big in Iceland? Many indicators point to the hit TV show, “Game of Thrones.” Iceland’s beautiful landscape, which includes volcanoes, is where much of “Game of Thrones” is filmed. According to Newsweek, some locals are even calling it a “tourism boom” due to the show.

Iceland’s economic success is the result of more than just an increase in tourism; government actions have also proven to be extremely beneficial. An example of this includes a government program intended to “stimulate a previously frozen housing market and reduce household debt.” It has been quite successful, as housing debt has dropped from 124 percent of the GDP to 77 percent.

Despite Iceland’s many economic successes, there are still people who are struggling. According to Iceland Review Online, over 6,000 Icelanders live in severe poverty. In order to improve the situation, Siv Friðleifsdóttir, who is the head of the Welfare Watch and former minister for the Progressive Party, wants Iceland to follow the lead of other Nordic countries by paying a base amount in child benefits.

The poverty rate in Iceland demonstrates that the country is a world leader in combating poverty. There is still work to be done, but Iceland is taking the necessary steps to improve the situation.

Adam Braunstein
Photo: Flickr

Indonesia Compact investment
The U.S. foreign aid organization, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), invested $600 million in economic stimulus to reduce poverty in Indonesia that entered into force in 2013. The MCC forms five-year compact grants for countries that meet eligibility criteria and displays “good governance, economic freedom and investment in their citizens”.

According to the MCC, the Indonesia Compact consists of three projects, which aim to facilitate the increased quality of “health and nutrition, sustainable land and energy management, and modernizing the system of government procurement of public goods and services.”

To assist with the goal of “sustainable land and energy management,” part of the Indonesia Compact is the Green Prosperity project. This project accounts for $332.5 million of the Indonesia Compact investment funding, encapsulating efforts to expand economic conduits while decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases. Indonesia’s elimination of fuel subsidies has been positive and growth is expected to reach 5.5 percent in 2017. The regime’s ability to set fuel prices, however, is still a point of concern, as cited in a June 2016 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Another part of the Indonesia Compact is the Community-Based Health and Nutrition to Reduce Stunting Project, which is a child and youth-based initiative aiming to decrease incidents of malnutrition that impact Indonesians across 5,400 villages. The World Food Programme cites that the nation loses more than $5 billion per year due to lost productivity as a result of malnutrition. An investment of $134.2 million of the $600 million is going towards the Community-Based Health and Nutrition to Reduce Stunting Project.

The World Bank notes that 37.2 percent of children under the age of five experience stunting. These developmental hindrances are pivotal to providing transparency into the double burden of malnutrition. Paired with an increased risk of developing non-communicable diseases like heart disease, stunting at a young age can reduce productivity beginning in adolescence.

The MCC has allocated $65 million of the Indonesia Compact investment to the Procurement Modernization Project. The goal of this project is to strengthen the country’s public procurement system. The OECD reported that provinces and districts in Indonesia are spending 40 percent of total public funds, a rate of fiscal decentralization higher than any other East Asian country apart from China.

The compact also accounts for inequality by the implementation of the Social and Gender Integration Plan (SGIP) that ensures equal opportunity across genders and social structures for those participating in compact programs.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr