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SPEECH/ 10/26


Member of the European Commissioner responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

Introductory remarks on "Education & Training for the Europe of 2020"

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Education, Youth & Culture Council of Ministers

Brussels, 15 February 2010

Let me first thank the Presidency for providing us with the opportunity to exchange views on the contribution of education and training to the future EU strategy for growth, social inclusion and sustainable development .

A great number of jobs have been lost during the crisis and new work places will primarily emerge in areas that need higher skills levels.

In 2020, it is estimated that 35% of all jobs will require high qualifications - compared to 29% today. This will mean 15 million more jobs with high qualifications .

In addition, the number of jobs requiring medium-level qualifications will increase by 4 million (whilst the share will remain stable at 50%). In contrast, the number and share of jobs needing only basic qualifications will fall.

Knowledge is the key to exiting from the crisis and creating a sustainable social market economy.

This is why education will have to be a vital part of our strategy, and short-term measures to deal with rising unemployment will need to be combined with structural reforms that prepare our societies for the long-term challenges, such as demographic or climate change and the risk of social exclusion.

The Commission will adopt a Communication on the future EU 2020 strategy in early March.

As the Commission has already indicated in our consultation paper published last November, this strategy will rely heavily on knowledge and the key roles of education, innovation, creativity and research .

As outlined in the Presidency's discussion paper, we will need to combine excellence with equity .

On the one hand, we will need to deepen the knowledge base of our economies to compete with the rest of the world.

On the other hand, we will need to enable every citizen to participate in lifelong learning and have opportunities in the labour market , and to play an active role in society at large.

Last but not least, we will certainly need higher, more efficient and targeted investment to achieve these ambitious objectives.

I think that our discussion here today should focus in particular on what we can do together to implement the effective measures needed to target:

  • the more than 6 million young people who leave school early ,

  • the over 1 million of 15 year olds with poor reading skills , and

  • the nearly 80 million adults with only basic skills ,

so that they improve their skills, competences and employability.

We have a basis for our cooperation in the Strategic framework on education and training that EU Ministers adopted in May last year.

But we need to anchor these priorities in the EU's overall strategy for economic and social development up to 2020.

Delivering sustainable growth and social inclusion requires agreement to an agenda that places Europe's citizens at the centre .

Quality education and training can perfectly play this role.

It should be our aim for the future EU 2020 strategy to provide an opportunity to capitalise on the potential of education and training to create a more sustainable economy and society.

I would also suggest, Mr President, that this Council should be as concrete as it can be in putting forward its ideas. And we can already take account of what we know from the discussions at the informal meeting of the Heads of State and Government last week.

I understand that it was envisaged that a very small number of concrete targets – a figure of five was discussed - would be used to drive forward the process.

And one of these, as suggested by Council President Van Rompuy, would focus on education and training, specifically on promoting an increase in university studies.

This Council has already agreed last May, as one of the 5 benchmarks within the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training, that:

by 2020, the share of 30-34 year olds with tertiary educational attainment should be at least 40% (the current figure for the EU is 31%). As you know in the USA & Japan the figure is 40%.

The five priority targets for the strategy as a whole will definitely emerge directly from our policy dialogue on education. We should seize the opportunity to have one of our key education objectives highlighted in this way.

The higher education attainment benchmark has the merit of addressing both the objectives of promoting excellence and of increasing access.

I look forward to hearing your views. For my part, I can pledge that I will put forward the conclusions of our discussions today in the context of our discussions at the College of Commissioners as we prepare our Communication for adoption in early March.

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