Brussels, 3 October 2007
There is insufficient overall progress in Europe’s education and training systems towards the goals set in the Lisbon strategy for more jobs and growth. This is the main finding of the 2007 edition of the European Commission’s annual report on progress towards the Lisbon objectives in the field of education and training, which is published today. The report charts progress since 2000 in the light of key indicators and focuses on five education benchmarks agreed by the Member States. On the positive side, the number of tertiary-level maths, science and technology graduates continues to increase. However, progress was only moderate for the other benchmarks.
The Lisbon Strategy aims to make the EU into a dynamic, knowledge based economy with more and better jobs and growth. In the area of education and training, the Member States agreed to implement the Lisbon Strategy by working towards common objectives for their education and training systems. Their progress in this work would be monitored against a set of five benchmarks for improving education and training in Europe agreed in 2002. Every year, the Commission monitors the progress made by the Member States. The report published today shows that while some areas showed positive developments, overall progress was found to be lacking.
Ján Figel’, the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, said that “Top-quality education and training is vital if Europe is to develop as a knowledge society and compete effectively in the globalising world economy. Regrettably, this report shows that the Member States need to redouble their efforts to make the EU's education and training meet the challenges of the 21st century. The message to policy makers in the Member States is clear: we need more efficient investment in our human capital."
The main findings of the report include:
Other indicators – which are not benchmarks agreed by the Member States – indicate that the pace of reforms in education should be accelerated. For example, most EU school pupils are not yet taught at least two foreign languages from an early age, as requested by the Barcelona 2002 European Council. At present (2003 data), an average of only 1.4 and 1.5 foreign languages per pupil are taught in the Member States in general lower- and upper-secondary education respectively.
Moreover, the financing and efficiency of educational systems remain of high
concern. Studies repeatedly show that the most effective area to increase
investment is in pre-primary education. As regards higher education, although
public investment in education and training as a percentage of GDP has grown
markedly since the adoption of the Lisbon strategy (from 4.7% to 5.1% of GDP),
progress has stalled in recent years and the EU would need to more than double
the amount it invests per tertiary-level student (i.e. an increase of around
€ 10 000 per year) to match the spending level in the USA. This shortfall
consists almost entirely of private investment.