After repeated calls to modernise higher education, the Commission is now urging member states to cooperate on national school reform as part of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs.
“Our school systems must adapt if they are to provide young people with new skills for new jobs,” said Education Commissioner Ján Figel’, presenting a Commission Communication on European cooperation on schools on 3 July 2008.
“We need to prepare our young people for jobs that may not even exist yet,” he explained, adding that children’s school performance “has a real impact on the opportunities they get later in life”. Figel’ said the EU executive is therefore asking member states to intensify their cooperation “in order to strengthen national reforms and make the national reforms part of the Lisbon Strategy”.
In addition, he underlined the importance of guaranteeing access to education as well as ensuring its quality, arguing “our systems need to be more equitable and efficient”.
Based on a public consultation, organised in summer 2007, the Commission Communication recommends EU-level cooperation:
- to give all pupils the key competences, such as literacy and numeracy, for lifelong learning and to modernise school curricula and teacher training;
- to provide high quality learning for all by generalising pre-school education and improving equity, and;
- to improve the quality of teachers and school staff and their education.
However, member states are entirely responsible for the organisation and content of their national education and training systems. The Commission can only support them in this duty and propose non-binding actions in the framework of the Open Method of Coordination (OMC).
Meanwhile, the EU executive regularly monitors the performance of the EU-27 national systems according to a number of educational benchmarks including literacy rates, number of early school leavers and the rate of pupils completing upper secondary education.
According to the EU executive, member states’ progress on improving reading literacy, reducing early school leaving and improving school participation has been “disappointing” and these key targets will not be achieved by 2010.