Education crisis in Spain’s tourist areas

Why is Spain the second worst EU country for school dropouts?

Students sitting exams. Credit: bibiphoto/

Recent data indicates that Spain is grappling with a significant increase in school dropouts, particularly in its most notable tourist regions.

The phenomenon is most pronounced in communities like the Balearic Islands, Catalonia, and Andalucia, where dropout rates surpass 15 per cent.

In stark contrast, regions such as the Basque Country, Cantabria, and Castilla y Leon maintain rates below ten per cent. This discrepancy throws a spotlight on the varying educational trends across Spain.

The lure of the labour market

A key factor behind this trend is the attractive labour market in these tourist-rich areas. Jobs in the tourism sector, often offering salaries higher than what many university students might expect, lure young people away from education.

As Ismael Sanz, professor of Applied Economics at Rey Juan Carlos University, points out, ‘We are the second country with the highest dropout rate in the European Union, [just in front of] Romania.’

This statement underscores the gravity of Spain’s situation in the context of the broader European educational landscape.

Maria de los Angeles Narvaez, Director of the IES Maria Victoria Atencia in Malaga, observes this trend particularly in the Mediterranean, southern regions, and islands, which have seen a strong resurgence in tourism post-pandemic.

She explains that students are tempted to abandon their studies for immediate financial gain, noting, ‘they see that if they become a waiter they will have a salary that will allow them to pay for their whims.’

Economic implications and future prospects

While the immediate monetary benefits are apparent, the long-term economic repercussions of this trend are concerning.

Educational attainment is closely linked to job quality and earning potential. Thus, the increasing dropout rates could have far-reaching effects on Spain’s future workforce and economic health.

This situation presents a complex challenge for Spain, calling for a delicate balance between capitalising on its thriving tourism industry and ensuring the educational advancement of its youth.

The question remains: can Spain find a sustainable path forward that supports both its economy and the educational aspirations of its younger generations?

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.