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27.3.

2010 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 79/27

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on ‘An updated strategic framework for European
cooperation in education and training’
(2010/C 79/06)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS:

— The CoR welcomes the Communication from the Commission entitled An updated strategic framework
for European cooperation in education and training; fully endorses the general objectives set out, namely,
to build higher skills through better education and training systems, an objective quite rightly described
as an absolute priority for meeting the challenges facing the European Union.

— The CoR recalls the importance of the responsibilities of the local and regional authorities and their
key role in education and training, which makes them central players in the implementation process
for achieving the strategic objectives set. The working methods chosen for long-term European coop­
eration in education and training should therefore take the responsibilities of local and regional
authorities into account;

— The CoR welcomes the fact that the strategic challenges are not restricted to labour market issues and
approves, in particular, the challenge that seeks to ‘promote equity and active citizenship’.

— The CoR considers that developing cooperation between Member States is a prerequisite for meeting
shared challenges that will result in the emergence of a dynamic knowledge-based society; feels that
cooperation among local and regional authorities also contributes to this objective and should there­
fore be encouraged.
C 79/28 EN Official Journal of the European Union 27.3.2010

Rapporteur:  Jean-Vincent Placé (FR/PES), Regional councillor, Ile-de-France

Reference document

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic
and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on An updated strategic framework for Euro­
pean cooperation in education and training

COM(2008) 865 final

I.  POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS for achieving the strategic objectives set. Depending on national
systems, local and regional authorities are responsible for various
levels of education ranging from pre-school education to adult
education and training, all of which are addressed in this Com­
munication. Furthermore, European cooperation in the area of
THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
education and training is closely linked to employment and sus­
tainable economic development strategies, migration issues,
including multilingualism, demographic trends, and EU policies
on social inclusion, business, research and innovation. As a result,
it falls to the local and regional authorities to ensure an effective
Principles and general remarks
implementation of education and training policies incorporating
all these aspects. The working methods chosen for long-term
European cooperation in education and training should therefore
take the responsibilities of local and regional authorities into
1.  welcomes the Communication from the Commission entitled account;
An updated strategic framework for European cooperation in education
and training; fully endorses the general objectives set out, namely,
to build higher skills through better education and training sys­
tems, an objective quite rightly described as an absolute priority
for meeting the challenges facing the European Union; 5.  emphasises that, in this respect, this Communication
addresses a subject of long-term importance to the Committee,
and, in the short term, the subject is linked to the Committee’s
priorities for 2009 (3);
2.  subscribes totally to the Commission’s general analysis; edu­
cation and training are crucial if Europe is to mobilise competi­
tively in conditions that can safeguard a high level of social and
environmental protection, bearing in mind that Europe’s biggest
asset is its people (1); recalls, in this context, that 79 % of jobs will 6.  appreciates the fact that the proposed measures support and
require high or medium qualifications by 2015 (2); complete the actions of the Member States, thus contributing
European added value without prejudicing the principles of sub­
sidiarity and proportionality;

3.  endorses the idea, developed by the European Commission,


that education and training policy should enable all citizens, irre­
spective of age, gender and socio-economic background, to 7.  emphasises, moreover, that with regard to the education and
acquire, update and develop over a lifetime job-specific skills and training of children from migrant backgrounds, which is also
active citizenship; these policies are therefore key factors for per­ mentioned in the strategic challenges and priorities, this issue
sonal emancipation and social integration; could be considered as equally relevant to the integration of third-
country nationals in the European Union; recalls, in this regard,
that integration measures do not fall within the EU’s current remit
in the area of immigration (Articles 61, 62 and 63 TEC) but under
4.  recalls the importance of the responsibilities of the local and the direct responsibility of the Member States, which means that
regional authorities and their key role in education and training, the EU can only play a supporting role in this area, pending the
which makes them central players in the implementation process possible ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, which would strengthen
EU prerogatives in this field;

(1) CdR 31/2006 fin.


(2) Future skill needs in Europe: medium term forecast, CEDEFOP, 2008. (3) CdR 380/2008.
27.3.2010 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 79/29

8.  recalls that rising immigration in Europe constitutes a cul­ train high-level personnel in all disciplines; therefore urges the
tural, linguistic and demographic enhancement that is an oppor­ Commission to focus on this issue without, however, necessarily
tunity rather than a burden, and that for this reason, education introducing further indicators, which could have a negative
and training for first as well as second generation immigrants impact on the overall consistency of the set objectives;
should be a priority insofar as it is the key to integration and effec­
tive participation in social and professional life (4); urges the Com­
mission to pay attention to the most vulnerable migrants;
15.  draws the Commission’s attention to the fact that the Com­
mittee considers the involvement of third countries engaged in
the EU accession process to be of vital importance and calls on
9.  notes the Commission’s intention to strengthen the use of the the Commission to explore the different possibilities for achiev­
open method of coordination (OMC) by adding peer review to ing this;
existing peer learning activities; therefore urges the Commission
to take account of the fact that strengthening the OMC may
increase the financial and administrative burdens on local and
regional authorities that are largely responsible for education and
training; Strategic challenges

16.  approves the four strategic challenges and the priorities pro­
10.  recalls that, particularly in the area of general and vocational
posed by the Commission for 2009-2010;
education, the OMC can only function if the sub-national level is
directly involved. The performance of Member States, which is the
combined performance of their regions and municipalities, should
be based on the wealth of their cooperation through sustained
solidarity; 17.  notes that the short-term strategic challenges and priorities
are in line with work already carried out under the Education and
Training 2010 work programme;

11.  is very attentive to gender inequality issues, as mentioned in


several of its earlier opinions (5) and therefore calls on the Com­
mission to pay special attention to this persistent gender-based 18.  welcomes the fact that the strategic challenges are not
imbalance; restricted to labour market issues and approves, in particular, the
challenge that seeks to ‘promote equity and active citizenship’;
furthermore, first contact with policy and day-to-day implemen­
tation of active citizenship takes place at the sub-national levels;

12.  draws attention to the need to facilitate the integration of


people with disabilities, irrespective of their age, in mainstream
training and education, which would greatly enhance their social
inclusion and employability; 19.  recalls its commitment to mobility, an essential aspect of
cultural and professional development insofar as it contributes to
overcoming economic as well as cultural barriers; stresses, there­
fore, that mobility must become the norm for all learners;

13.  welcomes the importance given to adult training, which is


essential for improving employability, mobility, social inclusion
and personal development; recalls, in this context, that the Com­ 20.  highlights the key role played by local and regional authori­
mittee has already expressed its willingness to play an active role ties in learner mobility, both in providing information and flank­
in promoting lifelong learning and training, an area which closely ing measures to complement EU programmes (7). The Committee
concerns local and regional authorities (6); therefore calls on the Commission to take more account of this
role by involving the regions in the process of drawing up the
programmes and by bestowing more responsibility on those
regions that so wish in respect of their implementation.
14.  queries the Communication’s failure to mention the issue of
training and maintaining a qualified workforce and people with
key skills, an issue that is, however, crucial for most European
countries in the context of developing a knowledge-based 21.  recalls that regional and local authorities must play a front­
economy, both with respect to the ‘brain drain’ and the need to line role in achieving the ‘mother tongue plus two’ objective, espe­
cially in implementing education programmes (8);

(4) CdR 253/2008.


(5) CdR 233/2000 and CdR 19/2001. (7) CdR 34/2006 fin.
(6) CdR 49/2004 fin and CdR 31/2006 fin. (8) CdR 6/2008 fin.
C 79/30 EN Official Journal of the European Union 27.3.2010

22.  recalls the need to develop progress in language acquisition 32.  believes that societal challenges relating to environmental
at primary and secondary school; the education process must pro­ issues (water, energy, climate, biodiversity, pollution, etc.) should
vide more opportunities to speak at least one foreign language at be given particular consideration under the objective that seeks to
primary school (9); ‘enhance innovation and creativity’; at a broader level, these chal­
lenges call for in-depth changes to many professions and for many
new ones to be created; they should therefore be incorporated in
lifelong training, including by establishing suitable training
23.  recalls the need to step up efforts to raise awareness of the courses;
benefits of language learning (10);

33.  approves the proposal to develop partnerships between


24.  approves the intention to develop teachers’ initial training education and training providers and businesses, research institu­
and the range of lifelong professional development opportunities tions, cultural actors and creative industries; when followed
for staff involved in teaching and guidance activities; through, these activities have demonstrated their innovative
effectiveness;

25.  considers that trends in terms of skills needs must be taken


into account when developing education and training. These are 34.  considers that developing cooperation between Member
often first identified at local and regional level; States is a prerequisite for meeting shared challenges that will
result in the emergence of a dynamic knowledge-based society;
feels that cooperation among local and regional authorities also
26.  believes that education geared to sustainable development, contributes to this objective and should therefore be encouraged;
and especially raising awareness of climate change, biodiversity
and the conservation of all natural resources (soil, water, air, min­
eral resources, etc.), together with the development of media lit­ 35.  therefore calls for a comparative overview of (i) Member
eracy, are essential and intrinsic components of active citizenship, States’ general and vocational training systems and (ii) the reforms
approaches which could be included among the priorities for that are planned in the near future to be drawn up and published
2009-2010; on the internet in all official EU languages. This would allow edu­
cation experts in municipalities, regions, municipal councils and
school communities to obtain the information they need on other
27.  recalls, in this regard, that active citizenship and under­ countries’ experiences with general and vocational training, and
standing the issues of sustainable development are among the key thus to contribute to discussions on the ongoing reorganisation
competences for Europeans set out in the recommendation on of general and vocational training as equal partners at the central
Key Competences for Lifelong Learning – A European Reference decision-making level;
Framework (11);

The indicators
28.  considers that early, pre-school learning and primary edu­
cation plays an important role in the development of basic skills
that equip people for life and work (12);
36.  approves the use of benchmarks within the framework of
the open method of coordination; however, this should not give
rise to covert harmonisation of systems in individual Member
29.  approves plans to develop mutual learning on best practices States;
for the education of children from migrant backgrounds. Mutual
learning of this kind is an essential measure for promoting Euro­
pean citizenship and for a successful integration process;
37.  approves the Commission’s intention to use quantitative
(benchmarks, statistics) and qualitative (information sharing and
good practice) measures (13); these should mainly build on exist­
30.  would emphasise the importance of mother-tongue instruc­ ing measures and be based on comparable data while taking
tion for children of migrants since this improves their ability to account of the different situation in individual Member States.
learn both the language of the host country and other languages; Member States would be invited to consider how and to what
but state support should clearly prioritise learning the language of extent they can jointly contribute to achieving the goals while tak­
the host country and being able to use it confidently; ing account of changing economic and social circumstances and
their national priorities;

31.  emphasises the major importance of local authorities and


regions in developing innovative environments (12); 38.  emphasises that discussions have yet to take place regard­
ing the resources that regions and municipalities might require in
order to be able to take on any additional administrative and
(9) Ibid. financial costs involved in the establishment of the new indicators;
(10) CdR 33/2006 fin.
(11) CdR 31/2006 fin.
(12) CdR 133/2008 fin. (13) CdR 349/2002 fin.
27.3.2010 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 79/31

39.  notes, however, that the objectives set in respect of four of 45.  believes that efforts made in the areas of reading, writing,
the five benchmarks adopted in 2003 will not be met by 2010; mathematics, science and ICT are by no means incompatible with
furthermore, the impact of peer learning and information and the teaching of other school subjects, which all contribute to the
good practice sharing remains uncertain, which argues in favour development of other qualities, such as creativity, self-respect and
of reviewing the relevance of the set objectives and/or the work­ social skills (15);
ing methods;

46.  endorses the objective to further stimulate the progress


made to provide teaching in two foreign languages from an early
40.  advocates that the Commission, the Member States and age and therefore approves the language benchmark;
local and regional authorities examine the reasons why these
benchmarks have not been met;

47.  is very circumspect with regard to the introduction of a


benchmark on investment in higher education: a proactive measure
that raises investment in higher education to  2 % of GDP is in
41.  endorses the Commission’s intention to raise the adult par­ itself positive, but the public-private aspect of this objective
ticipation in lifelong learning objective from 12,5 % to 15 %; raising should not relieve States of their responsibilities; this, moreover,
participation levels is particularly important in a period of crisis should not lead to households having to pay a larger proportion
since efforts must be made to facilitate career conversion and pro­ of higher education funding, as this would, inter alia, undermine
vide further training for many workers; the equal opportunities objective, particularly in a period of crisis;

42.  supports the proposal to set a benchmark for mobility, 48.  endorses the benchmark for tertiary level attainment, as well
which is essential insofar as it enhances employability and con­ as the proposal to discontinue the benchmark for maths, science
tributes to developing European citizenship, although this indica­ and technology since it has been reached, and values the atten­
tor has yet to be defined by the Commission; believes, without tion paid to the gender imbalance in these studies; recalls, in this
prejudice to efforts made for university students, which should be context, the Committee’s opinion on the Communication from
pursued, that emphasis should be placed on the mobility of the Commission Towards a Community framework strategy on gender
apprentices and young people in vocational training, an area equality (16);
where many regions are active;

49.  has reservations about the Commission’s proposal to estab­


lish a benchmark for employability since although the establish­
43.  approves the intention to create benchmarks for low achiev­ ment of a link between levels of educational attainment and
ers in basic skills, which have been extended to mathematics and market labour success is a shared concern, other variables, in par­
sciences, but stresses the need to focus primarily on reading and ticular the economic situation, have to be included; this measure
writing; recalls, however, that a knowledge of information and therefore warrants more precise definition;
communication technologies (ICT) and foreign languages are
important for the acquisition of knowledge and the implementa­
tion of lifelong learning and training objectives; children, in par­
ticular, should be able to acquire ICT skills at an early age (14); 50.  approves the Commission proposal to establish a bench­
draws attention to social inequalities in accessing these technolo­ mark for pre-primary education, since early learning creates new
gies, which should be met with appropriate responses from development opportunities and is an important aspect of lifelong
national, regional and local or European institutions, thus learning;
enabling local and regional authorities to rely on existing EU pro­
grammes and new Commission programmes and to participate in
the fight against functional illiteracy under the revised Lisbon
Strategy; similarly, these bodies should take account of the impor­ 51.  endorses the intention to leave the early school leavers bench­
tance of migrants learning the language of the host country in mark unchanged and considers that various different approaches
facilitating their social inclusion and employability; must be identified to reach this objective;

52.  has strong reservations regarding the proposal to develop a


44.  In work on developing new educational and training indi­ fixed benchmark for enhancing innovation and creativity consider­
cators and benchmarks as part of the open method of coordina­ ing current levels of experience; The Committee, however, sup­
tion, reading comprehension testing should be extended to skills ports the idea that Member States should examine the possibilities
in dealing with media content, given that nowadays in electronic of developing indicators which have the potential to boost their
or digital contexts such content comprises a combination of writ­ efforts in the field of innovation and creativity.
ten texts, images and videos.

(15) Ibid.
(14) CdR 349/2002 fin. (16) Cf. CdR 233/2000 fin.
C 79/32 EN Official Journal of the European Union 27.3.2010

53.  proposes exploring ways to enhance inter-state information 54.  shares the commitment to maintain and expand effective
and good practice sharing on the benchmarks for innovation and and ambitious education and training policies; the ongoing crisis
creativity and employability, with the close involvement of the should not deflect us from this objective but, on the contrary,
regions; spur us on to its accomplishment.

Brussels, 7 October 2009

The President
of the Committee of the Regions
Luc VAN DEN BRANDE