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Education


The Council decides by qualified majority in the field of education. It shares competence with the European Parliament, which has codecision powers. The European Community has the task of contributing to the development of high-quality education and the implementation of vocational education and training policy, without encroaching on Member States' competence for the content of education and training and the organisation of the education system.

The Community complements action by the Member States, in particular through supporting programmes in order to:

  • contribute to the further development of the learning and dissemination of languages with the aim of strengthening the European dimension in education and training
  • facilitate the mobility of students and teachers by promoting the mutual recognition of diplomas and study periods
  • promote cooperation among institutions providing education and training and, particularly in the area of vocational training, with companies
  • improve initial and further vocational training in order to help employees enter the labour market and adapt to industrial conversion processes and any retraining undertaken.

Activities in the field of education and university education
Education and higher education – dossiers and priorities

 

Activities in the field of education and higher education

The following factors will continue to play a key role in creating and securing jobs, growth and social cohesion in the field of education:

  • higher education: increase in the quality and attractiveness of European universities, improvement in management, increase and diversification of funding
  • promoting mobility → comprehensive learning experiences, greater knowledge transfer, positive effects on the labour market, positive effects on research capacity at European level
  • increase in transparency of education systems, facilitation of the mutual recognition of qualifications
  • language competences, including with a view to enhanced intercultural dialogue
  • promoting key competencies → personal development, better social and vocational integration, development of entrepreneurial capabilities

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Education and higher education – dossiers and priorities

“General and professional training 2010”

Lifelong learning programme

European Qualification Framework

Focus on Western Balkans

European Quality Charter for Mobility

Multilingualism and Language Competence Indicator

Key competences for lifelong learning

Education for Sustainable Development

 

Second joint interim report of the Council and the Commission on “General and professional training 2010”

To facilitate the assessment of progress made in the implementation of the 2010 work programme, it was agreed at the European level to produce interim reports at two-year intervals. The second joint Council and Commission interim report on the implementation of the "Education and Training 2010" work programme will be drawn up during the Austrian Presidency. It will, for the first time, be based on the national interim reports of Member States, acceding countries, EEA countries, Croatia and Turkey. Upon its adoption by the Council of Education Ministers in February 2006, it will be a major factor in the planning of further reforms.

To showcase the importance of education as an element of the Lisbon strategy, Austria advocates that the Education Ministers should communicate key policy messages on the interim report to the European Council in March 2006.

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Lifelong learning programme (following on from Socrates and Leonardo da Vinci)

Another priority concern will be to follow up negotiations on the Lifelong learning programme – a new initiative, under which a transversal programme and the Jean Monnet programme (with the emphasis on European integration) will be added to the well-known Comenius (school education), Erasmus (higher education), Leonardo da Vinci (vocational training) and Grundtvig (adult education) programmes. The objective pursued with lifelong learning is to foster the development of the European Community into a progressive knowledge-based society, enjoying sustained economic growth, more and better jobs and stronger social cohesion. Hence, the focus is on promoting and optimising cooperation among Member States in the various fields of lifelong learning and on promoting the mobility of learners.

The Austrian Presidency has made it its aim to conduct the negotiations on the new European programme (which will be contingent on the EU budget) in the Council and the European Parliament to such good purpose that full political consensus can be reached, including the financial aspects. This is designed to contribute in a major way to successfully establishing a vital interface between the educational sector and civil society.

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European Qualification Framework (EQF)

Another priority objective of the European Union is to ensure that educational credentials and qualifications acquired by citizens in Member States other than their own will be recognised in their home country as well as throughout the European Union. Such mutual recognition will guarantee better chances on the labour market to each and everyone.

With this in mind, Member States together with the European Commission are working on the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). The EQF is a tool derived from learning outcomes which permits the comparison of qualifications and competences acquired on a Europe-wide, comparable basis. The core of EQF consists of eight reference levels which span the full range of qualifications from compulsory educational schools to the most advanced qualification for senior professionals. Hence, the European Qualifications Framework will make the educational systems of member states more transparent and facilitate the mutual recognition of qualifications.

Under the Austrian Presidency, important preparatory work will be done for the European Qualifications Framework: At the end of February 2006, the outcome of the European consultation process will be presented at a conference in Budapest. The discussion will subsequently be continued at the Conference of Ministers of Education in Vienna.

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Focus on Western Balkans

Promoting the integration of the Western Balkans into the Wider European Area of Education will be one of the priorities of the Austrian Presidency. Since 1999, Austria has supported regional educational cooperation in South Eastern Europe, inter alia by hosting the Task Force Education and Youth of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. In 2003, the Ministers of Education in the region committed themselves in a Memorandum of Understanding to regional cooperation and to the European dimension of educational reforms. The Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern Europe
(ERI SEE - http://www.see-educoop.net/graz_2003/activities/erisee/frame_erisee.htm), which was launched by Austria and laid down in the Memorandum, is now taking forward the exchange of experience at political and expert level.

As part of this ongoing process, ministers from the Western Balkans will be involved in current EU discussions during the Austrian Presidency. The aim is to demonstrate, in the context of the Conference of the European Ministers of Education in particular that, in addition to political reflections in the EU context, there are approximation and coordination possibilities for the region of South East Europe. The process of integrating the education systems of South East Europe into an enlarged European Education Area is already under way, though it needs further consolidation and deepening.

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European Quality Charter for Mobility

Promoting mobility is a priority objective of education policy. Mobility is designed to give better insight into differences between cultures and languages and will thus foster the evolution of European citizenship as well as generate a sense of European identity. Citizens will experience mobility as a factor boosting their personal development and their chances on the labour market.

This is why another practical instrument – the Quality Charter for Mobility – is being discussed under the UK Presidency and will continue to be discussed under the Austrian Presidency. This recommendation provides a frame of reference and covers all types of educational mobility: formal and non-formal learning, short-term and long-term mobility, learning at schools, universities, on the job; mobility for the young and for adult learners, etc.

The Charter for Mobility contains ten guidelines which are mainly addressed to the responsible sending and receiving organisations and designed to maximise the benefits derived by European citizens from studying or learning abroad.

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Multilingualism and Language Competence Indicator

Language learning opens up the mind, stimulates interest in the diverse cultures within the EU and is an essential prerequisite for mutual understanding among Union citizens. Knowledge of languages is an added value when it comes to mobility and employability. This is why Commissioner Ján Figel’ has submitted a new Framework Strategy for Multilingualism.

Moreover, the Austrian Presidency will address the dossier Language Competence Indicator. Under this heading, data are to be acquired on the language competence of European adolescents. So far, only descriptive data on language learning have been available (Eurydice). The Austrian Presidency advocates a pragmatic and generally acceptable implementation of the Commission proposal by the Council.

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Key competences for lifelong learning

Globalisation is confronting us with new challenges. Strengthening key competences means to empower citizens to face up to the many new developments in an open-minded spirit of constructive participation. Fostering the key competences that are required by each and everyone for their personal development, for their social and professional integration and for acquiring entrepreneurial skills in a knowledge-based society is consequently a matter of priority in the educational sector.

The key competences acquired by young people by the end of their initial education and/or training ought to equip them for adult life. Subsequently the key competences ought to be developed, maintained and updated through lifelong learning. The concept of competence goes beyond that of qualification and comprises a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the context.

The proposed frame of reference includes eight key competences

  1. communication in the mother tongue
  2. communication in foreign languages
  3. mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology
  4. digital competence
  5. learning to learn
  6. interpersonal, intercultural and social competences and civic competence
  7. entrepreneurship
  8. cultural expression

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Education for Sustainable Development towards Responsible Global Citizenship

Education for sustainable development is an important theme of the Austrian Presidency. Education is more than employability; it conveys values and social skills that are required for citizens to become actively involved in our democratic society. It is essential for adolescents to learn to comprehend the complex interrelationships in a networked world, and to take responsible action in light of their insights.

The Austrian Presidency will span the range from the Dutch initiative, “Education for Democratic Citizenship” through the priority theme of the UK Presidency, “Youth Participation”, to “Education for Responsible Global Citizenship”.

With this in mind, the Austrian Presidency will convene a conference on “Education for Sustainable Development towards Responsible Global Citizenship“ as a contribution to the “UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development”. The conference will centre on the acquisition of knowledge, as well as attitudes and skills required for active citizenship in a globally interconnected world

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Date: 06.06.2006