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Brussels, 19 November 2010

Results of EU Education Council, Brussels, 19 November

Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, called on Member States today to strongly resist 'short-sighted' cuts to education budgets as part of austerity measures in response to the crisis.

"To cut down budgets in education is a very short-sighted policy that will have negative results in the long-run. We should encourage Member States to maintain or even increase their budgets in education," the Commissioner commented at a media briefing after a meeting of EU Education Ministers in Brussels.

The Council adopted a package of measures in support of education and training, including the Commission's Europe 2020 Youth on the Move flagship initiative (see IP/10/1124), and held an in-depth debate on the role of education in combating poverty, inequality and social exclusion.

Commissioner Vassiliou welcomed the '100% support and commitment' expressed by Ministers for Youth on the Move.

"I am delighted that Ministers have unanimously adopted our initiative. This means we can now proceed with our concrete plans. It is only by working together that we can respond effectively to the challenges faced by young people today, especially when it comes to providing them with the means to acquire the skills they need to find a job," she said.

Youth on the Move aims to improve the quality and relevance of education and training, and sets out measures to contribute to the Europe 2020 targets on reducing early school leaving to under 10% and increasing the number of students in higher education or equivalent vocational education to at least 40%.

It also promotes study and training periods abroad, with the support of EU grants, to help students and trainees to gain the specific and broader skills needed to make the transition from education and training to the labour market.

There was strong agreement on the importance of education in combating poverty, inequality and social exclusion, with several Ministers calling for additional efforts in support of Roma children.

"We must make it possible for every child to have the same chances and opportunities in education. Poverty and deprivation reduce opportunities in life for far too many people. We need to break this cycle of disadvantage. We need to invest properly, to invest early and to link up policy actions," said Commissioner Vassiliou.

The Commissioner also reiterated the need to address a widespread skills' deficit in reading literacy and in maths, science and technology (MST), underlining that the number of 15-year-olds without basic skills had grown in the past decade. The Commission has set up a working group on MST and the Commissioner announced that she will establish a high-level expert group on literacy in January. The aim is to identify common success factors in boosting literacy and it will make recommendations in mid-2012.

The Council agreed to establish a modernisation agenda for vocational education and training for the period 2011-2020, with the aim of making it more attractive, accessible and flexible. Vocational education and training is popular in Europe, with around 50% of all students in upper secondary education choosing this option. Commissioner Vassiliou emphasised the "vital contribution" that vocational education and training can make to economic growth and social cohesion. "We must ensure that it is career-oriented, innovative and relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow," she said.

To find out more:

Website of Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.

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