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© Ronnie Macdonald

Basques promote the power of education

15/06/16Culture

The autonomous Basque government has invested in education to begin the promotion of their region as an educational superpower.

If counted separately from the Madrid-based government of Spain, the Basque region would rank third – behind Denmark and Austria – in a list of investment per pupil in Europe.

In terms of Basques engaged in research and development, they feature among the top three with Finland and Denmark.

Almost 48% of the region’s working population has acquired degree-level education, putting it on a similar level to Finland and Norway. An unusually high proportion of this figure has qualifications in or studied science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

Basque education minister Cristina Uriarte says a strong local and national identity plays a significant part in promoting education in the region. “Education is the key to keeping our culture,” she says, as plans to teach the Basque language in schools feature highly amongst her policies.

The language, which was suppressed between 1939 and 1975 under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, is now receiving protection and encouragement under the local government’s devolved powers.

This cultural and financial approach to education in the region has allowed it to avoid the same levels of youth unemployment as are currently being experienced in other areas of Spain.

Tuition fees are paid in part by a co-operative group of parents (40%) and the remainder paid by government. Although viewed as controversial by some the system, according to Guillermo Dorronsoro, dean of the business school at Deusto University in the Basque capital Bilbao, has helped promote education in the area.

Basque is an affluent and prosperous region of Spain; only Luxembourg and Austria have a higher income per capita.