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Education & training in Europe: investment on the rebound but inclusion remains a challenge
This year's edition of the Commission's Education and Training Monitor shows progress towards important EU targets, but also highlights that Member States need to make their education systems more relevant and inclusive, in particular regarding the integration of newly arrived refugees and migrants.
Europe relies on effective education systems to equip young people with the skills they need to build their lives as citizens and develop their professional careers. Schools, universities and vocational education and training institutions are the foundation of growth, jobs, innovation and social cohesion. In its 2016 edition of the Education and Training Monitor published yesterday, the European Commission analyses where the European Union and national systems stand, and shows that Member States face a dual task of ensuring adequate financial investment and offering high quality education to young people from all backgrounds – including refugees and migrants.
Tibor Navracsics, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said yesterday: "Europe's education systems can play a crucial role in helping us tackle important issues like persistent youth unemployment and slow economic growth, as well as new challenges such as the refugee crisis. But education will only play its part if it delivers good results. Today more than ever we need to ensure that education enables young people to become active, independent citizens and find fulfilling work. This is not only a question of securing sustained growth and innovation. It is a question of fairness."
The Commission supports Member States in reforming and improving their education systems through policy cooperation, benchmarking and funding programmes such as Erasmus+. The Monitor is an integral part of this work. By presenting a wealth of policy measures that have been tested on the ground and fostering dialogue, it helps Member States in driving improvements in their own education systems.
When it comes to investment in education, the Monitor's most recent data (2014) show that public expenditure on education in the EU has started growing again, after three consecutive years of contraction. EU wide, public investment in education grew by 1.1% annually. About two-thirds of Member States recorded a rise. In six countries, this increase was greater than 5% (Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Romania and Slovakia).By contrast, ten Member States reduced their spending on education in 2014 compared to 2013 (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, and Slovenia).
At the same time, more efforts are needed to make education systems more inclusive. Education is a powerful force for integrating young people with a migration background. Yet, they continue to fare worse than native-born residents. In 2015, they had higher early school leaving rates (19%) and lower rates of tertiary educational attainment (36.4%) than the native population (10.1 % and 39.4% respectively).
This points to the need for Member States to redouble their efforts – particularly given the rise in the number of refugees and migrants coming to the EU (1.25 million in 2015 as compared to 400 000 in 2013). About 30% of the newly arrived persons are under 18 years old, and most of them are under 34. Given their young age, education is an extremely powerful tool to promote their integration in society.
As the Monitor shows, several Member States are working to address this. The report highlights a number of measures, ranging from substantive budget support to specific and innovative measures to tackle skills gaps. For instance, Austria has set up transition classes in vocational education and training (VET) schools and in general education. Germany is discussing the recruitment of more than 40 000 teachers and thousands of social workers to support the creation of around 300 000 new places in its education system, from early childhood education and care to VET. Sweden has reformed rules on the reception and schooling of newly arrived students, setting up an early skills assessment system (within two months of arrival at the schools). Finland has boosted financial support to municipalities to organise preparatory classes. France plans to implement a programme 'opening schools to parents to make integration a success', among other initiatives; and Belgium has increased the capacity of reception classes and the number of language teachers.
The Commission's Education and Training Monitor 2016 is the fifth edition of this annual report that shows how Europe's education and training systems are evolving by bringing together a wide array of evidence. It measures Europe's progress on the objectives of the Europe 2020 headline targets for education as part of the broader EU growth and jobs strategy.
The Monitor analyses the main challenges for European education systems and presents policy measures that can make them more responsive to societal and labour market needs. The report comprises a cross-country comparison, 28 in-depth country reports, and a dedicated webpage with additional data and information. The Investment Plan for Europe, the Erasmus+ programme, the European Structural and Investment Funds, including the Youth Employment Initiative, as well as Horizon 2020 help stimulate investment and support policy priorities in education.
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