Success of Lisbon strategy hinges on urgent reforms
Despite the efforts being made in all European countries to adapt education and training systems to the knowledge-based society and economy, the reforms undertaken are not up to the challenges and their current pace will not enable the Union to attain the objectives set. This Communication reviews the situation and proposes urgent measures to be taken to speed up the Union's transition to a knowledge-based economy and society, as provided for in the Lisbon strategy.
Communication from the Commission - "Education & Training 2010": The success of the Lisbon Strategy hinges on urgent reforms (Draft joint interim report on the implementation of the detailed work programme on the follow-up of the objectives of education and training systems in Europe) [COM (2003) 685 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
At the Lisbon European Council held in March 2000, the Heads of State and Government set the Union a major strategic goal for 2010: "to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion". In March 2001, the European Council adopted three strategic goals (and 13 associated concrete objectives) to be attained by 2010: education and training systems should be organised around quality, access and openness to the world. A year later, it approved a detailed work programme for the attainment of these goals
The five European benchmarks adopted by the Education Council in May 2003 will for the most part be difficult to achieve by 2010. For example, the level of education in Europe remains inadequate (only 75% of young people aged 22 have completed some form of upper secondary level education, against a target of 85% by 2010), the level of participation in lifelong learning continues to be low (fewer than 10% of adults participate in further learning, the target being to reach 12.5% by 2010), and both failure at school (one in five pupils drops out of school, the objective being to reduce this rate by half) and social exclusion remain too high in the face of a worrying shortage of teachers (by 2015, mainly because of the retirement of existing teachers, over a million teachers will have to be recruited).
In addition, there are no signs of any substantial increase in overall investment (be it public or private) in human resources. During the period 1995-2000, public-sector investment dwindled in most Member States and is now 4.9 % of GDP in the EU. The Union is suffering in particular from under-investment by the private sector in higher education and continuing training. In comparison to the Union, private-sector investment is five times higher in the United States (2.2% of GDP compared with 0.4% in the EU) and three times higher in Japan (1.2%). In addition, the expenditure per student in the United States is higher than that of almost all EU countries at all levels of the education system. The greatest difference is in higher education: the United States spends between two and five times more per student than the EU countries.
These continuing weaknesses are all the more worrying as the effects of investment and reforms on the systems are felt only in the medium and even long term, and as the date of 2010 is getting closer and closer. A wake-up call is therefore essential at all levels if there is still to be a chance of achieving the Lisbon objectives. To this end, the Commission feels it is essential to act simultaneously, and right away, on four priority areas:
- concentrate reforms and investment on the key points in each country;
- make lifelong learning a reality;
- finally create a Europe of education and training;
- give "Education & Training 2010" its rightful place.
In relation to the first area, the Commission asks that Member States identify their weak points and increase investment accordingly. It asks in particular:
- that each country make known its national policy priorities on investment and reform in education and training, for the short and medium term, as well as its contribution to the attainment of the European objectives for 2010;
- that Member States increase the resources allocated to education and training. A higher level of public-sector investment in certain key areas (see Communication of 10 January 2003) and a greater contribution from the private sector, particularly in higher education (see Communication of 5 February 2003), adult education and continuing training are the key elements of success. Member States are also requested to make greater use of the Structural Funds and the European Investment Bank's "Innovation 2010" initiative for investment in education and training;
- that, by 2005, each country put in place an action plan on continuing training for educational staff which is up to these challenges and can make the profession of teacher/trainer more attractive.
With regard to the second area, the Commission calls on Member States to define truly coherent and comprehensive lifelong learning strategies, and in particular to:
- put in place, no later than 2005, comprehensive, coherent and concerted strategies;
- target efforts at disadvantaged groups in order to make education and training systems more attractive, more accessible and tailored more closely to their needs;
- systematically apply common European references and principles, such as ' Europass ' and the principles for the validation of learning.
In relation to the third area, the Commission is in favour of rapidly introducing a European reference framework for qualifications in higher education and vocational training, and calls on Member States to:
- rapidly introduce a European qualifications framework to act as a common reference for the recognition of qualifications. The Commission is determined to make all necessary efforts to achieve this by 2005;
- consolidate the European dimension of education, and in particular to step up language teaching at all levels and strengthen the European dimension in teacher training and in primary and secondary curricula. The definition by 2005 of a Community benchmark regarding a profile of European knowledge and competences to be acquired by pupils should make it possible to support and facilitate national action in this area.
The Commission highlights the essential role of education and training in the fields of employment, social cohesion and growth, and wants the Lisbon strategy's "Education & Training 2010" initiative to become a more effective tool for formulating and following up national and Community policies.
Given that time is running out for taking effective action before 2010, the Commission proposes that all of these measures be taken quickly, and feels it is essential to achieve a more structured and more systematic follow-up to progress made. It proposes that Member States submit to it, each year as from 2004, a consolidated report on all the action they take on education and training which can contribute to the Lisbon strategy.
For further information, please visit the Education DG's website on the Lisbon strategy, " Education & Training 2010 ".