In the European Union, it is assumed that education (including training) is indispensable for development of the today’s society and the knowledge-based economy. Through integration of training into the educational framework, education is perceived in its wider sense – it is not limited to education at schools and higher education institutions only, but it also includes all forms of educational activities outside education systems, in particular activities aiming at enhancing professional qualifications and raising participation in culture and in the civil society.
The EU strategy emphasises the role of cooperation between member states in education and training, as well as learning from each other. European cooperation with regard to education and training has gained impetus since the Lisbon Strategy was adopted in 2000. It has its continuation within the Europe 2020 strategy. EU’s main programme focuses on economic and employment growth, as well as social cohesion improvement. European cooperation with regard to education and training plays a substantial role in this programme by providing foundation of knowledge, skills and innovation as the most valuable assets of Europe, especially in the context of growing global competition.
According to Art. 165 and 166 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, education remains sole responsibility of member states. The Treaty gives the EU only soft competences in these areas which focus especially on coordinating, complementing and fostering activities of member states. Cooperation in these areas takes place mainly with the use of the so-called Open Method of Coordination.
It is provided for in the Treaty that the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (of ministers of education) adopt incentives, excluding any form of harmonisation of legal and implementing provisions of member states aiming at achievement of the main objective, that is development of high quality education.
EU measures relate to:
– development of the European dimension in education, in particular through teaching and promotion of languages of member states,
– promotion of students’ and teachers’ mobility, through among others encouraging to academic recognition of diplomas and periods of studies,
– determination and implementation of strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training.
Europe 2020 strategy
On 17 June 2010, the European Council adopted conclusions setting out a 10-year growth strategy “Europe 2020”. In a changing world of the EU, an intelligent and sustainable economy favourable to social inclusion is needed. Simultaneous work on these three priorities should help the EU and the member states obtain high employment, productivity and social cohesion level. The European Union created a specific plan enclosing five headline targets with regard to employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate change/energy which should be achieved by 2020. In each of these areas, all member states set out own national objectives which should contribute to achievement of the EU targets. Specific measures both at the EU and the national level strengthen implementation of the European strategy.
A headline target set out by the 2020 Energy strategy in education focuses on improving the level of education – in particular through:
– reducing the percentage of the youth who do not continue their educations to the level below 10% by 2020,
– increasing the percentage of persons aged 30-34 with higher education or equivalent education to at least 40% by 2020.
Framework of European cooperation in education and training until 2020 are determined in Council Conclusions of 12 May 2009 on strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (“ET2020”). Council Conclusions include strategic objectives of European cooperation in education and training for the period up to 2020. The objectives are as follows:
- making lifelong learning and mobility a reality,
- improving the quality and efficiency of education and training,
- promoting of equity, social cohesion and active citizenship,
- enhancing creativity and innovation at all levels of education and training.
The strategic objectives outlined above are accompanied by seven benchmarks indicating the average European outcome to be achieved by 2020, however, member states may set out their own benchmarks according to their capacities and objectives (first two benchmarks have been set out as the above-mentioned headline targets of the Europe 2020 strategy in education):
1/ fewer than 10% of young people should drop out of education and training,
2/ at least 40% of people aged 30-34 should have completed some form of higher education,
3/ at least 95% of children (from 4 to compulsory school age) should participate in early childhood education,
4/ fewer than 15% of 15-year-olds should be under-skilled in reading, mathematics and science,
5/ at least 15% of adults should participate in lifelong learning (in the period of 4 weeks before the survey),
6/ with regard to learning mobility:
– at least 20% of higher education graduates in the EU should have spent a period studying or training abroad in relation to higher education (including apprenticeship) which corresponds to at least 15 ECTS points or lasts at least three months,
– at least 6% of 18-34 year-olds with an initial vocational qualification should have spent a period studying or training abroad in relation to vocational education and training (including apprenticeship) which lasts at least two weeks or shorter if it is certified with a Europass document,
7/ the share of employed graduates (20-34 year-olds having successfully completed upper secondary or tertiary education) having left education 1-3 years ago should be at least 82%.
Currently, works of the EU on determination of the eight benchmark are being carried out which would pertain to desired for 2020 and at the same time measurable level of competencies in foreign languages.
Open Method of Coordination
Due to the fact that matters related to education and the youth remain in sole responsibility of member states, cooperation in these areas takes place mainly with the use of the Open Method of Coordination. This is an intergovernmental management method in the European Union based on voluntary cooperation between member states. Open coordination is carried out at supranational level, however participation of EU institutions is limited. The European Commission plays usually the role of a coordinator or a link uniting activities of states participating in a given cooperation – it helps to gather, analyse and exchange information and experiences.
Open coordination consists in, among others, laying down guidelines for the whole EU, adoption of shared objectives which is facilitated by qualitative and quantitative indications for participating states, determination of benchmarks which are used to compare own achievements with examples of the best solutions developed by other member states subsequently, agreement on methods and deadlines of regular monitoring of outcomes achieved, translate shared guidelines into specific plans and national and regional policies which set out national objectives in particular areas, periodic monitoring, peer evaluation and mutual review of the situation/outcomes of actions.
The whole process aims at sharing experiences and learning from each other.
Further information: http://ec.europa.eu/education/index_en.htm
On 1 January 2014, the Erasmus+ programme was launched which fosters education, trainings, youth and sport initiatives across Europe. It is an equivalent of previous programmes, among others: Lifelong Learning, Youth in Action, Erasmus Mundus, Tempus and Jean Monnet, established for years 2014-2020. The scope of the Erasmus+ programme has been expanded by support for sport initiatives. Erasmus+ provides many facilitations aiming at easier access to funds for education. The new programme should be a response to challenges identified in the Europe 2020 strategy by constituting support from the EU for development of national education and training systems, higher skills level of citizens, as well as by assisting member states in solving the problem of high youth unemployment.
In the Erasmus+ programme, education and training sector and the youth sector will implement three key actions:
Action 1: Learning Mobility of Individuals
Action 2: Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices
Action 3: Support for policy reform