The European Commission today presented its strategic vision for co-operation between EU Member States on the reform of their education and training systems. Common challenges, such as skills deficits, ageing societies and foreign competition need joint responses, and some goals will be easier to achieve if countries learn from each other. The Commission identifies both immediate priorities for 2009-10 and long-term challenges, and suggests improved tools to meet them. These include new education and training benchmarks for monitoring progress across Europe.
Commissioner JŠn Figel' said: "It is important to ensure that the current economic crisis does not divert our attention from setting the right long-term strategies for education and training policies. Today's choices will help us meet tomorrow's challenges with confidence. The Commission's plans will give new impetus to our co-operation on education and training, and ensure that we continue to make our essential contribution to both swift economic recovery and our strategic objective of growth and jobs in Europe".
Europe's education and training systems in need of reform
European education and training systems need reform to better prepare people to find jobs, to help businesses find the staff they need to succeed and innovate in the face of global competition. The quality and efficiency of education systems play a key role in supporting social inclusion, cultivating responsible citizenship and openness towards other cultures. For that, lifelong learning must become a reality across Europe so people can acquire key skills early and update them throughout their life.
Recent data shows that some EU Member States perform at a level comparable to the best in the world, but the poor performance of others means that issues such as reading literacy and early school leaving remain substantial challenges for Europe. Every sixth young person still leaves school with only compulsory education or less. Many learners with a migrant background succeed less well in education and training than their native peers. Adults with low levels of education are seven times less likely to be engaged in continuing education and training than those with high levels.
A case for co-operation
While the responsibility for education and training lies with national governments, some challenges are common to all EU countries: a workforce that needs more of the right skills for tomorrow's jobs, ageing societies and foreign competition. Some goals, e.g. helping students and learners move between countries, cannot be achieved by individual countries acting alone. Other goals will be easier to achieve if countries learn from each other and develop common tools, which can then be adapted to meet the specific needs of each country
EU Member States and the European Commission have in recent years strengthened their political co-operation in education and training at the European level. The focus is on exchanging good practice and developing common tools, in order to face common challenges. In support of future reforms in the Member States this new framework will strengthen mutual learning between them.
Monitoring progress - new benchmarks proposed
There are joint targets to measure the progress made by education and training systems at European level. They include the reading literacy of 15 year-olds, early school leavers, and the participation of adults in lifelong learning. The Commission proposes to review these benchmarks and to consider new benchmarks in more key areas such as tertiary education attainment, employability and student mobility.
European strategy and co-operation in education and training
Progress towards the Lisbon objectives in education and training - Indicators and benchmarks, 2008 report
(Europa Rapid Press Release)