Why education is a good investment? Final report on quality investment in education and training was presented by the EC expert group

EK haridusinvesteeringute uuringu töörühm
Lõpparuande ekspertrühm
On October 19, the expert group of the European Commission presented the final report of the study „Investing in our future: quality investment in education and training“. The report was presented in Brussels after more than 1.5 years of intensive research. Estonia was represented in the expert group by EBS professor in economics, Kaire Põder. 

The study analysed four main areas that have a major impact on education outcomes: teachers and trainers, education infrastructure, digital learning, and educational equity and inclusion. The report also covers the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the integration of newly arrived student immigrants.


The report addresses questions, such as
•    Which education and training measures are most effective in European Union (EU) countries?
•    How can the efficiency and effectiveness of spending be improved?
•    How to best evaluate policy decisions? 


In the working group, Estonia was represented by EBS economics professor Kaire Põder, who specialises in education economics, and whose educational research focuses mainly on topics related to education law: school choice, competition in education, the principles of meritocracy in education, the problems of Estonian and Russian schools, and the financing of higher education.


"The focus of the report is on evidence-based practices, both evidence found with experimental methods, its shortcomings, as well as the costs and benefits of implementing policies," explains Põder. According to her, it is the evidence-based nature that distinguishes the report from the previous ones.


European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel stated in her report introducing the study that the experts identified many promising education and training practices in Member States and areas in which the knowledge concerning quality investment in education could be strengthened. She emphasised that the given recommendations would help to create a new evaluation culture in the field of education policy. „This is of strategic importance for the building the European Education Area, Europe’s green and digital transformation and the development of resilient economies and societies in which no-one is left behind.”


Why is education a good investment? 


Education and training are the foundation for personal development and wellbeing, and their benefits go well beyond the individuals, affecting the whole of society, emerges from the study. The private average global rate of return to one extra year of schooling is about 9% a year and social returns to schooling are equally high, measured at above 10% at the secondary and higher education levels. Education and training strongly promote equality, tackling poverty and unemployment and stimulating intergenerational mobility. Disadvantaged pupils strongly benefit from quality education and training as they reduce socio-economic differences with those from more affluent families. Education and training also support political and democratic systems and promote societal cohesion.


In addition, education is positively related to health, life satisfaction, involvement in society and other characteristics of a good life. Põder notes that, unfortunately, research also shows that education has several mechanisms built into it, which deepen the educational gap. "Such problematic policies are, for example, early derailment of education (into professional and academic education), as well as study organisation (for example, repeating a class course) or results-based financing of higher education."


Thus, evidence-based policymaking is not only about doing the right things, but also about not doing the wrong things, the professor emphasises. "In order to introduce evidence-based education, we should not be afraid of experimentation. However, this should only be done in the course of ethical and methodologically transparent studies, where the evidence created provides confirmation for the implementation or rejection of the policy."


For this purpose, the European Commission is creating a new initiative "Learning Lab". The introduction of the operating principles of it will remain into the beginning of 2023. "We hope that Estonian schools and policy makers are quick to face new challenges," says Põder.


The international working group consisted of

Gabrielle Fack (France), Tommaso Agasisti (Italy), Xavier Bonal (Spain), Kristof De Witte (Belgium), Dieter Dohmen (Germany), Sanne Haase (Denmark), Jan Hylen (Sweden), Selina McCoy (Ireland), Mariya Neycheva (Bulgaria), Maria-Carmen Pantea (Romania), Francesco Pastore (Italy), Attila Pausits (Hungary), Jaana Puukka (Finland), Kaire Põder (Estonia) ja Julie Velissaratou (Greece). 


Full report downloadable here 

Prof. Põder's educational research is available here