29.04.2013 PEOPLE

Education Commissioner: EU invests in education in times of crisis

Commissioner for Education, Androulla Vassiliou, highlights that adult education can upgrade skills of the low-qualified and help in the challenges that ageing brings for Europe. Council of Europe reminds that supporting labour market is not the only goal of education.

Education is in the top of the Union´s agenda, says the Commissioner. It is a cure for unemployment.

"One of the big problems that we have is that we do not have the right skills of the people in order to fill jobs although we have unemployment — we have skills mismatch," says the Commissioner.

In addition to Education, Ms. Vassiliou is in charge of Culture, Multilingualism and Youth in the European Commission. She visited Helsinki last Friday as one of the keynote speakers of a meeting of 20 European Ministers of Education. The Conference focused on outlining the future work of the Council of the Europe related to education.

Democracy cannot exist without education

The Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, pointed out that education has also other aims than boosting the job market.

"Education is ultimately about the kind of society we want, not only about the kind of jobs we would like people to have," he said in his speech in the Minister Conference.

Separate from the EU system, the Council of Europe is devoted to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Mr. Jagland links the most important task of education to Council´s values.

"Democracy cannot exist if we do not have the competences to make democracy work in practice, he stated. It cannot be built without pupils and students who learn to practice it."

Adult education as a cure for ageing

When asked about non-formal adult education´s position in the agenda of the EU´s work, Commissioner Vassiliou refers to Rethinking Education, the strategy published by the European Commission last November. The strategy is a tool for EU Member States to renew their education systems.

EU Council decided to endorse the strategy and published its Conclusions in February. EU Council calls Member States to validate the knowledge, skills and competences acquired in non-formal and informal settings. Adults should also be encouraged to take part to educational activities by providing information on lifelong learning services.

Commissioner Vassiliou says that adult education has also another important task: tackling the demographic change.

"Ageing means that people work longer years, so we have to continuously upgrade the skills of the adults," she says.

Text: Aura Vuorenrinne