Education ministers call for more investment in education at EU and national level

The Education Council has adopted a strongly-worded report calling the Spring European Council to recognise the importance of reforms in education and training systems to reach the objectives set out in the Lisbon strategy.

The Education Council adopted a joint progress report from the Commission and the Council on the implementation of the work programme on 26 February 2004. The report titled “Education & training 2010 – the success of the Lisbon strategy hinges on urgent reforms” mirrors to a great extent the recommendations the Commission had presented in a November 2003 Communication (see

EURACTIV, 3 February 2004).

The report identifies three main levers for action in the education sector in order to reach the agreed goal of making education and training systems in Europe a world wide benchmark of quality by 2010:

  • focus reform and investment on the key areas;
  • make lifelong learning a concrete reality;
  • establish a Europe of education and training.

The report emphasises that to make the European Union the leading knowledge-based economy in the world, there is an urgent need to invest more, and more efficiently and effectively in human resources. “Community funding, including the structural funds and the education and training programmes, should have an increasing role to play in supporting the development of human capital”, specifies the report.

Ministers agree that the pace of reforms of education and training systems should be accelerated as there are still many danger signals:

  • too high rates of early school leavers;
  • too few women in scientific and technological fields;
  • nearly 20 percent of young people failing to acquire key competences;
  • too few adults participating in lifelong learning;
  • looming shortage of qualified teachers and trainers.

 

The Minister for Education and Science, Noel Dempsey, TD said: "Human resources are the Union's most valuable asset, so investment in education and training is a key factor in achieving the goals of the Lisbon Strategy".

In its assessement of the report, UNICE welcomes the fact that the urgent need for structural reforms is underlined. Employers also comment on the actions to be taken to accelerate developments towards the Lisbon targets, in particular regarding the efficiency of the cooperation process in the field of education and training, synergy with the Bologna process on higher education and the reporting exercise requested of Member States on the implementation of lifelong learning strategies.

ESIB - The National Unions of Students in Europe welcomes the reports' emphasis that in order for Europe to be the leading knowledge-based economy that there must be an urgent need to invest more and shares the concerns of the Ministers surrounding issues such as the lack on women going into scientific and technological fields and the high rate of early shcool leavers. ESIB however believes that for higher education and lifelong learning to be truly accessible for all it is important the costs of financing this is not passed on to the individuals and that caution is needed when discussing the increase of private sector contributions to the costs."

 

Ministers of Education adopted in 2001 a report on the future objectives of education and training systems where they set objectives to be achieved by 2010. Three major goals have been defined:

  • to improve the quality and effectiveness of EU education and training systems;
  • to ensure that they are accessible to all;
  • to open up education and training to the wider world.

In 2002, the Education Council and the Commission endorsed a 10-year work programme to ensure that these objectives were met. The work programme is being implemented under the open method of coordination.

 

This report will be presented to the Spring European Council on 25-26 March 2004.

 

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