3/14/2016

Parents concerns about the Skill Agenda

On 14th March the European Commission is holding a consultation with representatives of civil society. There has been a background paper issued on the Skills Agenda that will be discussed at the meeting. As those organisations that are not Brussels based are not financially supported by the Commission to participate at the meeting, the European Parents’ Association (EPA) has compiled a position paper instead to express our concerns. We keep demanding that there must be an obligation for EU institutions as well as national governments and other decision makers to involve those most directly concerned, namely children, young people and their parents when preparing national skills strategies, action plans, and last but not least in the activities connected to the European Semester and in its annual review.

Our greatest concern is that the holistic approach to education and the network of education institutions is missing, thus it does not tackle the fact that it is schools (primary, secondary and VET) that are the cheapest and most hands on places to support the skills development for local communities, but only if education segments cooperate and manage to change the face of schools, which means to open them up to all locals as community learning spaces. Successful projects all over Europe show that this is the right approach, but it need a very strong collaboration and an even stronger political will to rejuvenate systems that have been in place for 150-200 years. As there has been a huge emphasis on higher education in EU policies, we applaud to the approach that highlights vocational education and adult education as at least equally important policy areas. Parents have been concerned that pushing higher education attainment instead of giving equal support and promotion to other forms of tertiary education may not be the real solution for youth unemployment.

We can also only emphasise the importance of transversal skills - learning to learn as the vehicle of a flexible enough workforce to answer demands of a changing future labour market among them - another area that would need a holistic European policy to tackle skills as one agenda from early childhood to adulthood in Europe. Skills required by the labour market of today, as well as those necessary to become responsible, active European citizens are very low on the agenda of national school systems in most countries today, but Europe cannot afford school systems that are not preparing children and young people well for future challenges. It is equally important to actively promote education as real lifelong learning from cradle to grave as the pathway to success as well as well-being in different forms from awareness raising campaigns to relevant parent and teacher training.

Another important question is the issue of skills recognition and certification. The EU is still struggling with the mismatch of skills as well as the problem of existing and marketable skills that are not or cannot be certified. Civil society has pushed for the validation of skills learnt informally and non-formally. As the representative of parents in Europe we are concerned that the European Qualifications Framework in its present form is not fully suitable for this, for example validating the diverse and marketable skills people acquire through parenting. In the list of main challenges the paper talks about the necessity to review skills demanded by the labour market, but it is a wider challenge as the question about relevant qualifications rewarded by the market.

The paper’s starting point is that in Europe ‘workforce shrinks with demographic ageing’. As the paper mentions, but does not analyse the issue of mass migration Europe is facing at the moment, there remains some question marks on what the effect of this phenomenon would be on the size and age of workforce.

To finish with we would like to raise a question about the effectiveness of Erasmus+, especially mobility measures. There are still high concerns about the outcomes as compared to the amount spent, as well as the real outcomes apart from the usual outcomes of an extended touristic programme.

See earlier EPA policy papers related to, partly tackling the topic of skills:

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