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Graduates on rise, poll reveals

A Europe-wide survey of education systems over the past decade reports a rise in the number of tertiary education graduates. They integrate into the job market in half the time it takes people with lower qualifications - on average within five months compared with 9.8 months.

But the other side of the coin is that there is also a growing number of graduates who are overqualified for their posts - one in five, according to the latest figures.

Key Data on Education in Europe 2012, published last week by the Eurydice Network, finds a clear trend towards longer compulsory schooling in almost all education systems in Europe, in line with the aim of reducing early school-leaving rates.

In 10 countries, the age at which compulsory schooling starts has been brought forward by a year - and in Latvia, by two years. At the other end of the scale, 13 countries extended the duration of full-time compulsory education by one or two years and by three in the case of Portugal. Almost 90 per cent of all 17-year- old Europeans were still in education in 2009.

The survey shows that although teachers' salaries have risen in the past decade - in some cases by more than 40 per cent - the increases were not always sufficient to maintain teachers' purchasing power, due to a faster rise in the cost of living. And while the overall working hours for teachers have not changed, their average number of active teaching hours has increased in the last few years.

These trends coincide with a significant fall in the proportion of graduates in the field of education and training - a drop which could contribute to possible teacher shortages in the near future, especially since the majority of teachers employed in many European countries are close to retirement.

Although the retirement age has increased since 2001-02 in around one third of all European countries, the majority of teachers retire as soon as they become eligible. In some European countries, significant teacher shortages in core subjects - maths, science and language - were already being recorded in 2009.

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