No German presidency initiative on education

Germany prepares to relaunch the EU’s Lisbon Agenda without highlighting the key role that education must play to reach the Lisbon objectives.

Even though Germany has set the relaunch of the Lisbon Strategy as one of its top priorities, no new initiative is set to be put forward on education by the end of July 2006. 

The ‘Lisbon relaunch’ will instead focus on better regulation, with Germany bringing the current EU initiatives forward, linked to the Bologna process follow-up ministerial conference in May 2007 and the consultation on the European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET).

“With the Bologna process for higher education and the Copenhagen process for vocational training, European co-operation on education and training is on the right track. The remaining barriers need, however, to be removed without shaking the national systems,” said the German Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan, who presented the German EU Presidency’s education priorities. 

She said that Germany would place the emphasis on increasing the mobility of young people. With this regard, it will strive towards the adoption of the recommendation on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (EQF) and work on ECVET . Once adopted and implemented, these are intended to improve the mobility of German students and adult learners, as it is at present practically impossible to move between Länders to study or work, as the 16 different Länders, which form the Federal Republic of Germany and have extensive powers on education policy, do not recognise diplomas and qualifications from other Länders.

In addition, the presidency will need to work on the interim report on the implementation of the Commission’s ‘Education and Training 2010‘ work programme, which invites member states to ensure access to education for all and aims to open up European education systems to the wider world. The interim report will define the process’s direction beyond 2010. 

 

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is calling on EU education ministers to draw up national lifelong learning strategies, and for companies to shoulder their responsibilities in this area. "The key message from the ETUC is simple: the EU needs to invest more on education and training at national and European level. As there are 72 million non-qualified or low-skilled workers in Europe and new jobs will require higher qualifications than before, investment in education and training is a necessity, not a luxury," said ETUC Secretary Joël Decaillon.

Eurochambres believes that it is important to strengthen the business-universities relations to help develop an education relevant to the needs of business and society. "Sufficient attention should be given to entrepreneurial thinking and skills, as it is crucial for reaching the Lisbon objectives. It is not only necessary for those who want to become entrepreneurs, but it is 'a must' for everybody in a performing market society."

According to the UK government-sponsored '
Leitch report
' low skill levels can hold back productivity and growth and, if not addressed, will result in increasing inequality and the marginalisation of some groups within the labour market. "In the 21st century, our natural resource is our people – and their potential is both untapped and vast. Skills are the key to unlocking that potential. The prize for our country will be enormous – higher productivity, the creation of wealth and social justice. The alternative? Without increased skills, we would condemn ourselves to a lingering decline in competitiveness, diminishing economic growth and a bleaker future for all," writes Lord Leitch.

When heads of state agreed on the Lisbon Agenda and goals in 2000, they asked for "not only a radical transformation of the European economy, but also a challenging programme for the modernisation of social welfare and education systems". They also said that by 2010, Europe should be the world leader in terms of the quality of its education and training systems. 

To achieve these goals, however, all member states will need to fundamentally change their education and training systems. Such change could be brought forward by co-ordination between member states (joint definition of the objectives, common benhmarking, exchange of best practice).

  • Early 2007: the Commission will publish its report on progress made in higher- education reform (the Bologna Process).
  • Education, Youth and Culture Council will take place on 16 February 2007.
  • Informal meeting of education ministers will take place on 1-2 March 2007. 
  • Conference: Knowledge for Action - research strategies for an evidence-based education policy will take place on 28-31 March 2007.
  • The official launch of the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013 will take place on 6-7 May 2007.  
  • The Bologna Ministerial Conference will take place in London on 16-18 May 2007. 
  • Education, Youth and Culture Council on 24-25 May 2007.
  • European Vocational Training Conference: Realizing the European Learning Area will take place in Munich on 4-5 June 2006.
  • Adoption of the EQF proposal is expected before the end of 2007. The proposal foresees that member states relate their national qualifications systems to the EQF by 2009.

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