On 23 May, the European Commission published its European Semester Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) and Country Reports, part of the ‘Spring Package’. The CSRs are to guide the reforms and investment that EU Member States will perform in the coming year.
LLLP has written a reaction to the CSRs expressed in the most recent Semester package, related to education and training. Here, in short-form, we present some of the main points expressed in the reaction.
- In general, there exists a glaring lack of education and training related CSRs, with only 8 countries receiving at least one related CSR. This neglect of education and training related issues and concerns is at odds with the wealth of research evidence, including from the European Commission, indicating that learning gaps exacerbated by the onset of Covid-19 necessitate an increase in targeted measures and public expenditure across all EU member states.
- While the value of lifelong learning is regularly touted in European Union policy initiatives and documents, the omission of lifelong learning across the CSRs recitals, is stark. In the instances when it is mentioned, it is narrowly conceived as merely a labour-market tool. This is hugely distant to the European Commission’s more holistic definition for lifelong learning that accounts for ‘formal, non-formal or informal learning taking place at all stages in life and resulting in an improvement or update in knowledge, skills, competences and attitudes or participation in society from a personal, civic, cultural, social or employment-related perspective, including the provision of counselling and guidance services’. The European Commission should expand its indicators, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to match and align with the lifelong learning definition it promotes.
- There also exists a clear mismatch between the education and training targets set out in the European Pillar of Social Rights, the European Education Area and the CSRs expressed in the semester. CSRs should guide Member States via particular investment and reform measures in an effort to ensure that European level targets are realised to a greater extent.
- A further concern revolves around the sweeping emphasis expressed in the 2022 CSRs on fiscal prudence and reducing public expenditure, at a time when public expenditure allocated towards education and training has been following a downward trajectory in many EU Member States as highlighted in a recent LLLP Study on public investment in education. Again, realising EU level education and training targets cannot be achieved without significant, adequate and equitable public expenditure.