independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Education reform 'key to EU growth'

EU chiefs say education needs to improve for growth to return to Europe

Europe's governments must improve their education systems to help kick-start jobs and growth, the European Commission has said.

The Commission has no direct role in national education policies but agreed a "strategic framework for European co-operation in education and training" with member states in 2009.

Now Education and Culture Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou wants to monitor national education systems as part of a new "Rethinking Education" strategy.

A Commission report declared: "To unlock the full potential of education as a driver for growth and jobs, member states must pursue reforms to boost both the performance and efficiency of their education systems."

The Commission points out that the EU youth unemployment rate is close to 23% - and yet about two million job vacancies cannot be filled.

"Europe needs a radical rethink on how education and training systems can deliver the skills needed by the labour market. Today, the European Commission is launching a new strategy called Rethinking Education to encourage member states to take immediate action to ensure that young people develop the skills and competences needed by the labour market" said the report.

The plan calls for national education authorities to step up the focus on entrepreneurial and IT skills; set a foreign language learning target of 2020 for at least half of 15-year-olds to be familiar with a second language, with at least 75% overall studying a second language.

More education investment is recommended, particularly in "work-based learning" and in "well-trained, motivated and entrepreneurial" teachers.

Commissioner Vassiliou told MEPs in Strasbourg: "Rethinking education is not just a question of money: whilst it is true that we need to invest more in education and training, it is clear that education systems also need to modernise and be more flexible in how they operate to respond to the real needs of today's society.

"Member states need to address the challenge of improving education and training while consolidating public finance. Europe will only resume sustained growth by producing highly skilled and versatile people who can contribute to innovation and entrepreneurship."

Press Association

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