Politicians at the European level have recognised that education and training are essential to the development of today's knowledge society and economy. The EU's strategy emphasises countries working together and learning from each other.
EU education and training policies have gained impetus since the adoption of the Lisbon Strategy in 2000, the EU's overarching programme focusing on growth and jobs. The strategy recognised that knowledge, and the innovation it sparks, are the EU's most valuable assets, particularly in light of increasing global competition.
EU Member States and the European Commission strengthened co-operation in 2009 with strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training ("ET 2020")a follow-up to the earlier Education and Training 2010 work programme launched in 2001.
The approach recognises that high-quality pre-primary, primary, secondary, higher and vocational education and training are fundamental to Europe's success. However, in a rapidly changing world, lifelong learning needs to be a priority – it is the key to employment, economic success and allowing people to participate fully in society.
With each EU Member State responsible for its own education and training systems, Union- level policies are designed to support national actions and help address common challenges such as: ageing societies, skills deficits among the workforce, and global competition. These areas demand joint responses and countries can benefit from sharing experiences.
The long-term strategic objectives of EU education and training policies are:
EU level activities are being developed to address priority areas in each of the different levels of education and training – early childhood, school, higher, vocational and adult education – based on these overall aims.
These include, for example, expanding opportunities for learning mobility or enhancing partnerships between education and training institutions and the broader society.
Other actions are relevant to all levels of education, such as promoting multilingualism, innovation, creativity and adoption of ICT (Information and Communication Technology).
A series of benchmarks are set for 2020.
The benchmarks for 2020 are:
Considerable progress has been achieved through co-operation – particularly in support of national reforms of lifelong learning, the modernisation of higher education and the development of common European instruments promoting quality of education, transparency on choices and qualifications, and mobility between countries.
EU targets are subject to regular monitoring and reporting, at both EU and national levels.
Read more about monitoring progress and find the latest reports.
The Commission organises peer learning activities between Member States interested in sharing best practice and jointly developing national policies and systems in specific fields.
European co-operation in education has led to the development of a number of EU reference tools to help learners and support national reforms.
Recommendations and common principles have been developed in the areas of key competences for learners, quality assurance in higher education and in vocational education and training, quality of mobility, validation of non-formal and informal learning, lifelong guidance and the recognition of qualifications abroad.