What is it about?
Education and training are crucial for both economic and social progress, and aligning skills with labour market needs plays a key role in this. By the same token, under its Europe 2020 strategyto respond to the economic crisis, the EU set targets to bring the number of early school-leavers down to below 10% and increase the share of graduates from tertiary education to at least 40% by 2020.
Why is it needed?
In an increasingly globalised and knowledge-based economy, Europe is in need of a well-skilled workforce to compete in terms of productivity, quality, and innovation.
Recent evidence, however, suggests that 20% of the EU working age population has low literacy and numeracy skills. This adds to the growing mismatch between the skills people acquire and what is demanded on the labour market. These factors contribute to unemployment and limit growth.
Education and training also bolster the personal development and active citizenship and promote equity, social inclusion and cohesion.
How does it work?
While the responsibility for education and training systems lies with the member states, the EU has a key role in supporting and supplementing efforts to improve and modernise their education systems.
The objectives, instruments and arrangements for joint work at EU-level are outlined in the strategic framework, referred to as ET 2020. This framework is valid until 2020.
Within this framework, priority areas are identified to plan activities over "work cycles" of three years each.
Progress is monitored with the help of indicators and against a set of benchmarks, designed to contribute to evidence-based policy making and identifying challenges.
Under the Europe 2020 Strategy, EU countries are given specific guidance on priority reforms each year ("Country-specific recommendations").
What does it involve?
In order to ensure the successful implementation of ET2020, the EU relies on Working Groups composed of experts nominated by member countries and other key stakeholders. This work is part of a broader cooperation, known as the Open Method of Coordination, which aims to promote mutual learning, exchange of good practices, fostering national reforms and developing EU-level tools.
The EU also carries out country analysis to support Member States in the development of their education and training policy. These respond to challenges that are identified at EU, national, and regional level, and aim to support mutual learning, exchange of best practices, identifying investment needs and assessing progress.
The EU also promotes numerous consultation and cooperation activities involving stakeholders such as learning providers, civil society, businesses, and social partner organisations.
The Education, Training, and Youth Forum is the annual platform for exchanges of views between the various stakeholders in education, training and youth.
What are the next steps?
In 2014-2020, EU countries can use the opportunities available through the Erasmus+ programme and the European Structural and Investment Funds to improve the performance of their education and training systems.