Speaking points for press conference
Brussels, 12 November
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I am pleased to be here to present you our 2015 Education and Training Monitor. Every year, this key report gives us a clear picture of the trends, improvements and challenges at all stages of education in the EU. It is our basis to work with the Member States to ensure our education systems are modern, effective and inclusive.
This year's Monitor shows that we are making progress to reach two main targets.
First, across the EU, the share of pupils leaving school too early has dropped to 11.1% (against 12.7% in 2012). We are very close to our target for 2020 of below 10%
Second, the share of pupils completing tertiary education has risen to 37.9%, compared to a goal of 40%.
Nonetheless, big gaps remain, between Member States but also within them, meaning that the social divide does not disappear: young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely not to get basic skills or drop out of education altogether.
Furthermore, we have to face the refugee crisis. Beyond shelter, food, medical assistance, we need to be ready to facilitate the integration of the many children, pupils, students and families that are arriving in Europe. Education and youth have a key role to play in this, from pre-schooling to higher education.
In this context, it is clear that we need to work much harder on two central issues: boosting investment in education and promoting inclusion through education. Economic growth, job creation and investment are at the core of this Commission's priorities. This report shows us that we can only meet these priorities by investing in people and putting education at the heart of economic and social policy.
First, investment: We must find new ways to encourage Member States to invest more, and invest smartly, in education. Putting money into developing people is not expenditure. It is an investment in our future. The EU supports Member States in this: For example, the EUR 315 billion Investment Plan for Europe offers real opportunities to get fresh money flowing into education. And our Erasmus+ programme helps to enhance people’s skills, employability and entrepreneurial spirit as well as to drive innovation.
Second, inclusion. Classrooms are the first place where we support the potential of most vulnerable students. Sadly, the terrorist attacks earlier this year in Paris and Copenhagen have reminded us of the crucial role education has to play in building open, tolerant societies.
That is why, later this month, I will meet with EU Education Ministers to put inclusive education in the focus of our new priorities for our cooperation in education and training in the coming years. We can do this, for example, by supporting more projects promoting citizenship and our common values under Erasmus+ in 2016.
To succeed, we need highly qualified and motivated teachers. They need the best training and support, and Member States should ensure that being a teacher is attractive and prestigious.
And we need to further improve the quality of our education systems. We need high-quality education that gives students a broad mix of relevant skills to find - or create - jobs. Young people today need technical skills for specific professional sectors, but they also require transversal skills, like an entrepreneurial mindset, creativity, problem-solving, teamwork or languages and communication. This process begins long before people enter the labour market. It must become a political priority at all stages of education.
Let me conclude:
Europe must secure economic growth, job creation, competitiveness and prosperity - as well as social cohesion and stability. We can only do so by investing in education and making sure our education systems are inclusive and welcoming for all. At European level, we can help Member States by fostering their exchanges of experiences and providing them with solid facts to conduct their policies. This is where the Education and Training Monitor plays a key role.
I will continue to work on with my counterparts in the Member States.