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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 15 February 2013

EU stepping up support for education and skills

Statement by Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, during the policy debate on 'Education and Skills for Jobs, Stability and Growth', at the Education Council (15 February 2013).

"We have to offer more direct and immediate support to the people who need help now.

We have to work harder to improve people's skills and competences so that they have a better chance to find a good job – this is exactly the policy message that we are giving in our 'Rethinking Education' Communication.

How can the EU-level support you in your policy efforts?

A first element is of course the EU Strategy for Growth and Jobs, Europe 2020. I would now like to stress that in particular the Country-specific Recommendations are there to support you in your reform efforts. And, in addition, they serve as a vehicle for us, in this Council formation, to ensure that the education and training policy concerns that we value can also be given the attention they merit in the deliberations of the Heads of State and Government in the European Council.

Secondly, this year is decisive when it comes to the Member States' plans for how to spend the next generation of Structural Funds. In the current programming period Member States are spending € 35 billion from the Structural Funds on education, training and lifelong learning. As you know, the bulk of the funding comes from the European Social Fund (€ 28 billion), but more than € 7 billion will be spent on education infrastructure through the European Regional Development Fund. These amounts can make a difference, if they are used effectively and for the right purposes.

The legislative framework for the period 2014 – 2020, which will soon be agreed among the EU Institutions, gives a prominent role to investment in education and training. It is now up to you, Ministers of Education, to ensure that your plans for the modernisation of education benefit from adequate funding.

Thirdly, the EU can help to organise mutual learning and provide the data, facts and figures that are needed to base our policies on a solid analysis.

I would like to highlight three examples of our strengthened cooperation with the OECD that are closely linked to today's discussion on skills.

The first one is PIAAC, the 'Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competences'.

PIAAC will provide, for the very first time, a wealth of credible empirical evidence about the skills of adults in the EU Member States, how effectively these skills are deployed, and how they relate to economic and social outcomes. We will present, next Autumn, jointly with the OECD, the findings of PIAAC here in Brussels.

Just as PISA did for secondary education, PIACC will bring a new wealth of information on the real situation on skills among adults. This will give you, Ministers, new information on which to plan your skills policies and it will give us in this Council plenty of material for our work under Europe 2020 and the 2014 European Semester.

My second example is about a new web-based tool: 'education and skills on-line'. This joint OECD and Commission tool will help citizens, enterprises and institutions to assess, for themselves, their skills, both in terms of their strengths and their weaknesses.

This will help them to identify the areas, where they would benefit from up-skilling and thus help them to improve their chances on the labour market.

The third example concerns entrepreneurial skills, which are crucial, in particular in the case of young people.

The European Commission, in collaboration with OECD, is developing a Guiding Framework for Entrepreneurial Universities and a self-assessment tool for Universities. We intend to expand this approach and tailor it to make it work at the levels of schools and Vocational Education and Training.

Finally, I would like to stress how pleased I am that the Presidency has invited Lord Puttnam, here in his role as Chancellor of the UK's Open University.

Making better use of modern technologies in education and training is – as you know – one of our key priorities for two reasons: because we need to educate our young and not-so-young people to live and thrive in an ICT dominated world; and because we need to harness the real power of ICTs as new means to meet traditional educational goals such as raising the quality of education and opening up access for all.

Later this year, I will follow up on the brief treatment of these issues in Rethinking Education, by presenting, jointly with Vice-President Neelie Kroes, a new initiative and a range of ideas on Opening up Education through ICTs.

U-Multirank

"I cannot finish without mentioning in your presence, President, the work we are doing to bring to fruition the U-Multirank project, the multi-dimensional and global ranking initiative supported at EU level

This is actually our plan to complement the existing university rankings, which are almost exclusively based on universities' research functions, with a tool which will provide a better, more rounded picture of the performance of our universities and colleges.

The launch conference in Dublin two weeks ago was a great success and I want to thank you, President, for you strong personal commitment. I want to invite all of you, dear ministers, to join Minister Quinn in becoming advocates for this project with your higher education institutions.

U-Multirank has the potential to increase transparency, and to highlight excellence in all the different missions of our universities, in teaching and learning, in knowledge transfer and regional development and in internationalisation, as well as in research. This will increase the visibility and attractiveness of all our universities, not just the big league universities. It will also be based on a strong input from the different national actors.

The challenge now is to ensure the participation of at least 500 institutions in the first round in view of the first publication early 2014. The next six months are going to be crucial in this respect, we need to progress fast. I make therefore an appeal to you so you can look at this initiative in more details and promote it towards your higher education institutions at home. We need to secure as early as possible the participation of universities in this initiative. I am very committed to this. I will therefore send to all of you, in the coming days, a letter explaining the rationale and the objectives of this initiative. It is also an issue to which I will be returning in this Council in the months ahead."


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