Europeans spend billions on "shadow education"

Mon Jun 6, 2011 9:00am EDT
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By Alysha Love

BRUSSELS (Reuters Life!) - Private tuition is a booming business in Europe, with parents in France and Germany spending more than 3 billion euros ($4.39 billion) a year on additional schooling for their children, according to a new report.

Across much of Europe the trend is the same -- even if the sums are not as large in all countries -- as parents set aside more and more income to give their children an extra leg-up on state-provided education, the European Union report shows.

As well as highlighting the vast sums being spent on "shadow education," the paper underlines how the trend is deepening inequalities in Europe, with the children of wealthier parents tending to receive more extra tuition, creating divisions that could have long-term social implications.

"Shadow education has reached such a scale, and has such strong implications for social equity, the knowledge economy, the work of schools, and the lives of children and families, that it must be addressed," wrote Mark Bray, the author of "The Challenge of Shadow Education," released last week.

The report, which pulls together research conducted in separate countries over the past four years, shows that France's shadow education sector was worth 2.2 billion euros in 2007 and was estimated to be growing at about 10 percent a year.

In Germany, an estimated 900 million to 1.5 billion euros is spent on tutoring each year, with most of that on secondary level education assistance. In France and Belgium, tuition fees can be more than 30 euros an hour.

In southern Europe, where state education systems tend to lag those in the north, there is a strong trend of extra schooling, with parents in Cyprus, Greece, Spain and Portugal all spending large quantities on their children, although the benefits tend to accrue to those from wealthier families.

Even in Scandinavia, which frequently tops global league tables for state education, extra tuition is on the increase.   Continued...