Rethinking Europe’s Strategy in Terms of Education and Skills

by Luis Ritto*

In my last article, I discussed the efforts in terms of quality that European higher education institutions are making in order to make Europe an area of excellence and distinction in University education. ISPD follows this trend and since its inception has made quality a top priority of its teaching methods.

Today I am going to talk about a different matter that is nevertheless also linked to quality education in Europe: I am talking here about the strategy that the European Commission adopted at the end of November 2012 called “Rethinking Education” and which aims to encourage EU Member States to do more and better to develop skills and competences in order to provide education that targets growth and jobs in Europe. In other words, to provide education that prepares better the young people of Europe for the job markets.

In fact, with a youth unemployment rate close to 23% across the European Union, the Commission is calling on EU education authorities to radically rethink on how education and training systems in Europe are delivered so that the right skills for the labour markets are put in place. As Androulla Vassiliou, the EC Commissioner for Education and Culture, said at the time this initiative of the EU Executive was approved: “ 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 societies”. And she added: “Europe will only resume sustained growth by producing highly skilled and versatile people who can contribute to innovation and entrepreneurship”.

The new EC strategy calls on EU Member States for a renewed focus on delivering the right skills for the workplace, increasing the efficiency and inclusiveness of education and new approaches on funding and partnerships. It will also support the achievement of the headline targets for early school leaving (10%) and tertiary attainment (40%). Research clearly shows that good quality, early education is a gateway to employment and social inclusion.

Among the main orientations given in its strategy paper, the Commission recommends that EU education professionals (i) “create job-ready young people through transversal skills” which will allow them to have both employability and business potential, (ii) invest more in “foreign language learning” in order that by 2020 at least 50% of school leavers have good knowledge of a first foreign language (up from 42% today) and at least 75% should study a second foreign language (61% today),  and (iii) build world-class vocational education and training systems that will increase levels of work-based learning at all levels.

All in all, this new EU strategy brings good news to the education sector in Europe, which needs modernisation and increased efficiency, including in the higher education sector. In this sense, ISPD is following developments resulting from this new policy strategy of the European Commission.

*About the author:

Dr. Luis Ritto is the former EU Ambassador to the Holy See and the Order of Malta and former EU Permanent Representative to the United Nations Organisations, ISPD Emeritus Professor and expert on diplomacy, diplomatic protocol and world affairs.