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Key competences for a changing world

This report assesses European Union (EU) countries’ progress in implementing the ‘Education and training 2010’ work programme during the period 2007-09. While focusing on the implementation of the European framework for key competences, the report also reviews the development of national lifelong learning strategies, the reform of the vocational education and training (VET) systems and the modernising of higher education.

ACT

2010 joint progress report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the “Education & Training 2010” work programme – ‘Key competences for a changing world’ [Official Journal C 117 of 6.5.2010].

SUMMARY

This fourth joint progress report on the implementation of the ‘Education and training 2010’ work programme notes that policy cooperation at the European level has provided valuable support to countries' educational reforms. Education and training performance in the European Union (EU) has improved. Nevertheless, most of the quantitative targets set for 2010 have not been attained. Further work is needed to address the remaining challenges.

Key competences

The European framework for key competences for lifelong learning has been used in many EU countries as a reference point for reforming national education and training systems. It has contributed to the move towards a more competence-based teaching and learning approach. Progress has been significant on school curricula and in giving transversal key competences a more prominent part therein. However, additional efforts are needed in the organisation of learning, such as in:

  • putting to use the transversal key competences (digital competence, learning to learn competences, social and civic competences, sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, and cultural awareness);
  • updating the skills and competences of teachers and providing professional development opportunities for school leaders;
  • further developing assessment and evaluation tools to take into account the most important skills and attitudes within the key competences, including the transversal key competences.

A concern for EU countries is pupils’ reading skills performance, which continues to deteriorate. Concerted efforts need to be made to increase literacy levels, especially among boys and migrants. In general, EU countries have adopted personalised approaches to learning for pupils with special needs, as well as programmes for acquiring basic skills at an early stage. Nevertheless, progress is slow and further efforts are needed to combat disadvantage.

EU countries must further develop their vocational education and training (VET) systems to address the full range of key competences more systematically. Work should focus on curricula, teaching and learning methods, and training of VET teachers. The full range of key competences must also be applied to adult learning. While EU countries have taken measures to increase adult participation in education and training, additional efforts should be made to cover all qualifications levels and to improve the competences of adult education teachers.

Lifelong learning strategies

Most EU countries have adopted lifelong learning strategies, which provide for flexible learning pathways. They have also progressed in the development of national qualifications frameworks linked to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and covering all levels and types of education and training. Efforts have also been made in the development of lifelong guidance systems for adults. Nevertheless, challenges remain regarding the:

  • implementation of the lifelong learning strategies;
  • further development of the lifelong learning strategies, in collaboration with stakeholders and other relevant policy sectors;
  • coherence and comprehensiveness of the lifelong learning strategies, so that they cover the full life-cycle instead of only specific sectors or target groups;
  • coordination of lifelong guidance systems to take into account the needs of young people.

Vocational education and training (VET)

The Copenhagen process provides for enhanced European cooperation on VET, with a view to improving the attractiveness and quality of VET systems. EU countries address these issues through the application of national quality assurance systems linked to the European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for VET. They also emphasise the professionalisation of VET teachers as well as on making VET more adaptable to the needs of learners and businesses.

However, EU countries must still tackle challenges relating to VET. For example, the relevance of VET with regard to labour market needs must be improved through:

  • closer cooperation between VET and the business world;
  • more work-based training (in addition to school-based training);
  • tools for anticipating future skill needs.

Efforts should also be made to progress faster in finding ways for learners of VET to continue on to higher education.

Higher education

Following an increasing awareness of the importance of enabling non-traditional learners to enter higher education, most EU countries have taken measures to facilitate access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. At the same time, the diversity of income sources for higher education institutions is increasing. But, there is still the need to increase:

  • public as well as private investment in higher education;
  • access to higher education for those already in the work force for the purpose of continuing professional/personal development;
  • university-business partnerships to strengthen the autonomy of universities, as well as to improve their governance and accountability.

The way forward

While European cooperation in education and training has contributed to reforming national systems, critical challenges still remain. In particular, the European framework for key competences must be applied in full and the openness and relevance of education and training need to be improved. To this end, the Council and the Commission are committed to work together on the basis of the new strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) and in the context of the overarching "Europe 2020" strategy.

Last updated: 26.03.2010

See also

European strategy for cooperation in education and training website of the European Commission Directorate-General for Education and Culture

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