Reforms and investments. Have been indicated to the Eu Member States, by the European Commission, as a way to increase medium level education among younger generations, reduce school leaving and favour a competitive economy “based on knowledge”. The Executive pondered on a series of data disclosed by Eurostat, which notwithstanding recent progress, highlighted Europe's delay in achieving its education goals set in the 2020 European strategy (school drop out less than 10%; and increase the share of young people with degree-level qualifications to at least 40% of 30-34 year old citizens).
Knowledge and skills. Data provided by the Commission highlighted that “Member States are making progress, but wide disparities remain and it is far from certain that EU will meet its 2020 goals”: the share of early school leavers now stands at 13.5 % ( down from 14.1% and from 17.6% in 2000). In 2011, furthermore, 34.6% of 30 -34 year olds in the EU had a degree”, compared to 33.5 % in the previous year and 22.4% in 2000. Androulla Vassiliou, The European Commissioner for Education and Culture, on June 7 said that Member States “need to focus on reforms and step up their efforts to implement comprehensive strategies to fight against early school leaving”. Providing young people with adequate skills and qualifications that will help Europe, according to Vassiliou, “to fight youth unemployment, to overcome the crisis and make the most of opportunities created buy knowledge-based economy”. Thus the request – notwithstanding the difficult national financial situation – of more funds for the school and university.
“Funding is needed”. “If adequate funding is not available, Europe will not win the global battle for growth and jobs”, the Cypriot Commissioner stressed. Based on Eurostat data and current economic crisis, the Commission is concerned that slight improvements recorded in school early leaving “are not the result of long-term measures, but rather a side effect of high youth unemployment which means more young people are staying longer in education and training. On early school leaving (defined by Eurostat as the share of 18-24 year olds with only lower secondary education qualification at best and no longer in education or training) , Malta (33.5%), Spain (26.5%) and Portugal (23.2%) have the highest drop-out rates, “but have made a strong progress in the recent years”. Other Member States that have reduced early school leaving include Cyprus, Latvia and Bulgaria. 13 Member States “ have higher education attainment rates that exceed the 40% goal: Ireland (setting a positive European record (47.5%) , followed by Finland, Cyprus, United Kingdom, Lithuania, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Estonia. Among the ones with lower attainment levels Italy, Romania, Malta, Austria, Slovakia (less than 25% graduates).
Next steps. On May 30, the European Commission presented a set of country-specific recommendations to Member States with necessary reforms to promote stability, growth and jobs (that will be discussed during the European Council on June 28-29) highlighting that six countries -Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Latvia , Malta and Spain – have been called to “address the early school leaving plight”. While other six countries, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Latvia and Slovakia - “received recommendations on higher education” and gaps. One must also consider that the Union started the “European Strategic framework cooperation in education and training” known also as “Et 2010” targeted at reducing drop-out rates and modernise higher education by , “identifying and sharing good practices” at European level. In December 2011 the Commission set up a working group made up of experts from across the EU to boost strategic developments and combat early school leaving”. The next steps are expected in autumn 2012 when the Commission will report on the latest developments in early school leaving and graduate attainment in the Education Monito in 2013 and the next Annual Growth survey.