Lifelong Learning Platform | LLLP - European Civil Society for Education

Investment in education and a lifelong learning approach: The only way to reach ET2020 targets

On 8 November, the LLLPlatform published a press release in reaction to the newly launched Education and Training Monitor 2016.

Press release: Education and Training Monitor 2016 – Investment in education and a lifelong learning approach: The only way to reach ET2020 targets

The Lifelong Learning Platform welcomes the 2016 Education and Training Monitor published by  the EU Commission on 7 November. This 2016 report highlights the persistent challenges Europe has been facing for years, such as youth unemployment or uneven educational opportunities, with a particular focus on integrating migrants and refugees in education and training systems, and stresses the strong need for more investment in education. However, the benchmarks used need to be thought critically with monitorable and qualitative aspects, in order to avoid another irrelevant ranking of Member States that forgets to reflect the diverse realities in Europe.

We believe education contributes to making society more inclusive by opening doors for individuals to improve their circumstances. The Lifelong Learning Platform regrets that educational systems around Europe often let learners fall behind or fall out into exclusion. In most cases, it is not learners who are unable to accommodate to the educational system but the system itself that does not succeed in achieving the potential of learners. The socio-economic background is not the only cause for inequalities in education: rigid educational systems, selective and segregated schools, are a major factor of exclusion and inequality. This report does not measure the progress made to adapt educational systems nor the opportunities that emerge when bridging formal, non-formal and informal learning. Although the ESL target has been reached by almost all EU Member States, there has been very little progress made since 2014. In order to make education more inclusive and to prevent dropouts, Member States must adopt a learner-centred approach and use the variety of teaching methods to suit all needs.

On the same note, reaching the EU target of having 15% of adults participating in lifelong learning is not proving successful, with an average rate of 10.7% in 2014 which does not increase in 2015. We believe the focus on lifelong learning and early school leaving should be more detailed: where do school leavers go? Do they pursue other form of education? Do they enter the labour market? Such data would allow for further analysis on whether early school leavers actually left education without certification or they continued but choosing a different path. The monitor will benefit from introducing benchmarks on other forms of learning.

Based on the data from this year, the decreasing investment in education remains worrying: although the EU records an annual increase of 1.1%, 10 Member States have reduced their spending on education. Cutbacks in funding imply that education is not a governmental priority in spite of its detrimental effects. Lower public spending in education does not only have an impact on learners, it also means lower salaries for teacher and is harmful for society as a whole. Cuts in education might lead not only to lower the quality of education, but also to further exclusion of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups who will need additional assistance and support in the future. “Education does not only provide people with the necessary knowledge, skills and competences for employment, it plays a paramount role in helping them participate in society and becoming active citizens,” underlines David Lopez, President of the Lifelong Learning Platform. Education is not a bad investment. Member States need to bear in mind when introducing reforms that education contains a huge added-value that will trickle into and benefit all dimensions of society.

We believe the improvements pointed out by the Monitor show that some of the targets are achievable by 2020. However, we would like to emphasise that the focus cannot only be on the quantitative targets: we need a holistic approach to improve education. Moreover, this process cannot end in 2020 and all educational stakeholders and policy makers need to continue their efforts beyond that deadline. Therefore we call for the European Commission to reflect on how to adapt benchmarks to the needs of the society, and its current and future challenges, in the post-2020 Agenda.

*The Education and Training Monitor, an annual series that aims at capturing the progress made on education and training systems in Europe based on ET2020 targets and benchmarks, plays an important role in pressuring members states to invest in education and training systems to attain the ET2020 objectives in regard to early school-leaving, early childhood education and care, tertiary educational attainment,  early childhood education and care, tertiary educational attainment, adult participation in learning, employment rate, underachieving in reading, maths and science…