In this Working Paper, based on nearly 20 papers produced by the Centre for European Policy Studies, Slovak Governance Institute and the Conference Board Europe, we examine whether the current trends in the areas of education and skills are pushing the European Union, towards convergence or polarisation. We cover a wide range of questions related to this main issue. No easy answers, but several cross-cutting messages emerged from the research. We demonstrated that there is increasing complexity in what a ‘low-skilled’ person is and how well (or poorly) s/he fares in the labour market. There are undoubtedly powerful forces pushing for more polarisation, particularly in the labour market. Our research confirmed that early childhood education plays an important role, and it also appears to be increasingly uncontested as a policy prescription. However, the other frequently emphasised remedy to inequality – less selection in secondary education, particularly later division of children into separate tracks – is more problematic. Its effectiveness depends on the country in question and the target group, while education systems are extremely difficult to shift even on a long-term basis. A different, more-nuanced type of warning to policy-makers is delivered in our research on returns to higher education by field of study, which showed hidden rationality in how students choose their major.
Miroslav Beblavý is Senior Research Fellow at CEPS and Coordinator of the NEUJOBS project. Marcela Veselková is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, Comenius University in Bratislava, and a Senior Research Fellow at Slovak Governance Institute.