What is it about?

Europe 2020, the EU's strategic growth strategy, seeks to promote smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth. A key factor in the achievement of this strategy concerns literacy, numeracy, science, and technology, so called basic skills.

Why is it needed?

Literacy, numeracy, science, and technology are the foundation for further learning and are a gateway to employment and social inclusion. In Europe, approximately 20% of the young generation is not equipped with the necessary basic skills in literacy, mathematics, science and technology.

These skills are becoming even more important as the digital revolution gives rise to new forms of reading and writing, as well as diversifying sources of information. At the same time, the demand for a qualified workforce in technology and research intensive sectors remains high.

What has been done so far?

Until 2010, work at European level focused on increasing the number of graduates in mathematics, science and technology subjects, with particular focus on women. In 2010, EU Ministers set out an agenda for European policy cooperation on basic skills. As a follow-up, a working group on Maths, Science, and Technology has been set up to help policy-makers develop and implement policies aimed at raising attainment levels and improving attitudes, with a particular emphasis on low-achievers.

A High-Level Group on Literacy has also been set up, bringing together European academics and policy-makers to map Europe's literacy landscape, identifying changing needs and requirements, as well as the best way to tackle them.

The report of the High-Level Group on literacy underscores the importance of literacy in the 21st century, as well as the need to ensure political ownership and cooperation to ensure genuine improvement, and continued economic growth.

What are the next steps?

By 2020 less than 15% of 15-year-olds should be classed as 'low-achieving' in those basic skills, as measured by PISA tests. The PISA results (2012) show that 22.1% of European students were low achievers in maths, 17.8% in reading, and 16.6% in science.

The European Commission launched a European Policy Network of National Literacy Organisations in February 2014. This network has the purpose to, amongst others, raise awareness, exchange good practices, policies, campaigns and initiatives promoting literacy.