Forum on the future priorities of ET2020

The third annual Education, Training and Youth Forum was held in Brussels on 9th and 10th October. As usual there were about 350 stakeholders in these fields and as usual parents were represented by EPA. The Forum witnessed the farewell of Commissioner Vassiliou who has done a lot during her 5-year assignment and also we heard the encouragingly enthusiastic Silvia Costa, the new President of the CULT Committee of the European Parliament. Xavier Prats-Monné who became Director General at DG EAC introduced some thought-provoking ideas. The results of a stakeholder survey was presented as well as a report on youth work in Europe. Participants had the opportunity to share some thoughts in workshops and at the end of the Forum Pierre Mairesse, Director General at DG EAC shared his thoughts about the issues highlighted by the participants. Read our detailed report below.

Commissioner Vassiliou sent some very clear messages to the new Commission and the new Commissioner. First of all she underlined the importance to keep the present level of European funding. The emphasised the need of a critical review of existing structures for excellence and innovation especially in view of the PISA results and the high levels of early school leavers. She urged to use the EU2020 goals as well as the European Semester as tools to call for reforms in member states. The joint report on the review of ET2020 due at the beginning of 2015 is also a possibility for this.
She called the attention to the fact that youth work nowadays equips  young people with skills for the labour market. There is a clear correlation between participation in non-formal learning such as youth work and formal learning achievements.
To make the best use of funding available there is a need to support cooperation as potential partners are often unaware of each other. To finish with Commissioner Vassiliou emphasised how important it is for the new Commission to cooperate with civil society, social partners and the European Parliament.
Silvia Costa became the president of the CULT Committee of the European Parliament covering the field of education after Doris Pack, who was a strong and committed politician. MEP Costa showed her commitment and determination in her speech at the Forum. She spoke about the importance to have a more central role of education and training in the revised 2020 goals. She emphasised how important lifelong learning is for a successful digital future, but creativity and entrepreneurship are equally important for Europe to succeed.
She is determined to involve as many stakeholders in the discussion as possible. She expressed her opinion that what has been achieved is not enough. Early school leaving levels are still high, we need to increase the number of people with university diplomas, the lack of language skills is an obstacle of mobility, lifelong learning is not a reality yet, there is no equal access to services for all and the whole situation is made even more difficult by budget cuts. She sent the message to member states and EU institutions that there is a need to invest more in the sector as education and culture are important for sustainability.
She called the attention to the gap between education and training and the needs of the labour market – a reason for youth unemployment. To close the gap there is a need for dissemination of information on national level and to provide an EU-wide recognition of skills and competences. There is a need to increase entrepreneurial spirit and to develop digital and other transversal skills.
To achieve European goals there is an need for adequate training of teachers and new teaching methods are needed. Investing in education and support services is the only way to prevent unemployment. She called for an increase of the Erasmus+ funds and also for a holistic approach in education.
Xavier Prats-Monné emphasised that in the field of education we all have more in common than anybody thought. For the future of Europe we have to defend human capital, education and training. This is the reason why there is a single Erasmus+ programme in the 2014-2020 period.
In a very provocative statement he compared Europe and the rest of the world. He stated that Europe has no confidence in its own future because we do not believe in our education systems. If the EU wants to gain confidence in the future we have to gain confidence in education and trust teachers.
He also collected some critical issues for the new Commission linked to the EU2020 strategy. He named the level of early school leaving as a necessary proxy to focus on the quality of education. He also called the attention to the importance of tertiary education attainment as education pays even if graduates cannot find a job straight away. He also called the attention to the need for innovation in education and the importance of multidisciplinarity that is not a reality in Europe yet.  In the field of funding there is a need for guidelines regardless the fact that it is not EU competence.
Young people need to be better prepared for the future and it is through education. But education is not about institutions anymore, so it is generally important regardless if it is formal, non-formal or informal.
About the the Juncker Commission he has the vision that it will invest more in the core business of the EU. For this reason it is important to make sure the revised ET2020 goals focus on issues that are core EU business It is equally important to make sure it is done together with stakeholders. He sent the message to stakeholders and the Commission to embrace challenges and be drivers of change.
The results of the stakeholder survey on ET2020 were presented. The survey clearly shows that ET2020 has had positive impacts on lifelong learning as well as the quality and efficiency of education, training and mobility. At the same time there is a need for more coherence of programmes, even arching over DG’s of the Commission. There were suggestions on improving communication, awareness-raising, to simplify the language used, to broaden the scope of stakeholder involvement and enhance cooperation among stakeholders.
The report on youth work can be found on the Commission’s website.              
To close the Forum Pierre Mairesse declared that there is a possibility for improved dialog with civil society organisations. He underlined the demand to continue a holistic approach to education – formal and informal education provided by different actors. He emphasised that ET2020 is a good framework and there is a need to maintain it. He assured everybody that there is no risk in skills and lifelong learning being transferred to DG Employment as there is good cooperation between DG’s. Some horizontal, cross-sectorial issues need to be tackled in the future such as non-formal learning and transversal/soft skills as important issues from both education’s and employment’s point of view. There is a need for frameworks of reference for employability and active citizenship.
He underlined the importance to have a common approach not only in the European Commission but also on the level of national ministries.

There is a need for a new or improved approach in the fields of peer learning (taking advantage of what works well), a better cooperation between the education and youth sectors and a need to touch the local level. He emphasised that in the EU2020 jobs and growth strategy we have good arguments for an education that is aiming at excellence and innovation alongside inclusion.

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