In 2015 the new development agenda was approved through the new Sustainable Development Goals which are based in seventeen concrete Goals.
The Objective number 4 seeks to “Ensure an inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all”. Realising a quality education is the base to improve people’s lives and enhance sustainable development. In this sense, educational laws help but they do not guarantee the Goal on which, unlike in the previous Millenium Development Agenda, all States, no matter their map location, HDI position or economic situation, must assess to and commit to fulfill towards 2030 with concrete fundings.
So, what about Europe in the Agenda?
A developed Europe in which we could think that this right is guaranteed but data indicates that there still are deficiencies when guaranteeing this right. While it is true that with regard to pre-school and primary education the level of quality schooling is almost at 100%, that is not the case of secondary education ISCED 2 and 3 (International Standard Classification of Education) that corresponds to the levels of basic secondary education (until the age of 15) and upper secondary education (from the age of 15 until the age of 18).
If we take a closer look at the next goal of the SDG we will specially see that an improvement can be made: For 2030, sharply increase the number of young people and adults that have the skills necessary, in particular technical and professional, to access jobs, decent work and entrepreneurship.
One of the truths that is shown in Europe is the wide range of national situations, specially when referring to secondary education.
Generally, there is a 24% of Europeans that only have a basic level of secondary education. Amongst the young people from ages 20 to 24, the 82% of them have finished their secondary education.
A figure that reflects this diversity is the unequal distribution of the 11% of young people ages 18 to 24 that are not currently studying and only have a basic level of secondary education. In Croatia they represent a 2.5% of the population while in Spain they represent a 22.5%.
This group is present in every reality but in a very uneven way. The situation in Greece, Italy, Spain or Ireland is not the same as in Slovenia or the Baltic Countries.
This group of young people is entering a world of social exclusion. In some cases they come from environments that have been specially affected by the crisis but also by the inherited structural conditions that existed before it. They are young people that have recently emancipated themselves and other youngsters that live in socially excluded households. But the group of young people that contains the highest level of vulnerability is the one that combines the decoupling of the educational area and the exclusion from the labour market. In other words, the ones that contain young people without an occupation and out of the educational system. In some places they are called NEET (young person Not in Education, Employment or Training). Even though the term on itself does not imply a specific lack of motivation of the young people, it should be noted that it has a stigmatizing and blame-placing potential to those who only are one of the main victims of the employment crisis.
These are the situations that we have to address as other institutions are doing, including some of the Society of Jesus. They try to offer a secondary education and a quality professional training for young people that are out of the formal educational system and the labour system. The Écoles de Production of AFEP in France or the Nazaret Centre in Spain are examples of this response.
We have to advocate to support and promote initiatives that seek to provide everyone, without exceptions, with a quality secondary education that allows them to be socially integrated in the same conditions as other youngsters.
This editorial has been written by Ricardo Angulo Olozaga, Sociey of Jesus schools coordinator in the Province of Spain and member of the Core Group del GIAN for the Right to Education of Quality for All.