Possible Implications for GOETE by Roger Dale, Bristol, United Kingdom

With its perspective towards educational governance, the GOETE project refers primarily to local and national education policies. However, new trends in educational governance imply an increasing relevance of transnational developments. This applies especially for the EU level. The EU’s new policy agenda “Europe 2020” and its more or less directly associated initiatives, carry quite a large range of implications for the GOETE project. This note is intended to clarify the aims and possible implications of those initiatives.

Europe 2020 is the successor to the Lisbon Agenda, as the guiding light for the EU’s overall strategy. Its target is achieving ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’, and one of its main goals is to raise education levels to satisfy demands for new and higher skills. As the Education Commissioner puts it, ‘Education is an essential lever for achieving the objectives of Europe 2020. Two of the strategy’s three priorities, smart growth, based on knowledge and innovation, and an inclusive high- employment society, as well as three of its seven flagship initiatives (Innovation Union, Youth on the Move, and An Agenda for New Skills and Jobs) depend critically on education and training’.

  • "Innovation Union" is to improve framework conditions and access to finance for research and innovation so as to ensure that innovative ideas can be turned into products and services that create growth and jobs.
  • "Youth on the move" is to enhance the performance of education systems and to facilitate the entry of young people to the labour market.
  • "An agenda for new skills and jobs" is to modernise labour markets and empower people by developing their of skills throughout the lifecycle with a view to increase labour participation and better match labour supply and demand, including through labour mobility.

Of these, Youth on the move (YOTM) has the clearest likely implications for GOETE. The basis of the argument for the importance of YOTM is that young people make up around 20% of the population of Europe, and that more than 20% of those young people are currently unemployed. Furthermore, 40% of employees in the EU under 25 years old are on temporary contracts.

YOTM is the first single EU-level strategy embracing both education and employment; it has four main lines of Action:

  • Contribute to building and modernising lifelong learning systems so as to develop the key skills, competencies, and learning outcomes of individuals, in line with labour market needs. This includes supporting learning through non-formal and informal educational activities.
  • Promote the performance and attractiveness of Europe's higher education to ensure it is competitive and well-placed internationally. This includes fostering innovation and encouraging student and researcher mobility.
  • Encourage the transnational mobility of young people for learning, employability, and social and personal development, so as to support the aspiration that by 2020 all young people in Europe should have the possibility to spend a part of their educational pathway abroad.
  • Improve the employment situation of young people by launching a Youth employment framework outlining policies priorities for action at national and EU level. It makes a distinction between ‘Learning mobility’ – studying or training abroad to gain new skills and experience; and ‘Employment mobility’ – moving abroad for work, on a short or longer-term basis (which is a right of all European citizens). Though learning mobility may be more familiar, the intention is to broaden the range of those eligible to include potentially all young people and not just those in tertiary education. In terms of the first, it is argued that experience gained in another country allows people to improve their language skills and develop other capacities, such as dealing with other cultures, which are valuable for their own personal development and future employability. In terms of the second, it is argued that experience of a job in another European country can help young workers gain a foothold in the labour market by finding a job more easily, while improving their skills, employability and future employment horizons. At a more general level, job mobility also helps make labour markets in Europe more adaptable, creating more job opportunities and better matching people with jobs. Another action envisaged is improved recognition for skills gained outside formal education.

YOTM may also be seen as part of a new cross-sectoral framework for EU cooperation in the youth field from 2010 until 2018, whose overall objectives are to create more and equal opportunities for all young people in education and in the labour market and to promote their active citizenship, social inclusion and solidarity, through collaboration across a range of policy sectors: education and training, employment and entrepreneurship, health and well-being, participation, voluntary activities, social inclusion, youth and the world, creativity and culture.

Another major area that may concern GOETE is Early School Leaving. Reducing the level of ESL across the Union to below 10% (it is currently around 14%) is one of the five key targets of EU 2020, and this has very recently been the subject of a proposal for an Action Plan and a Council Recommendation to all Member states (the strongest mechanism the EU has) based on a Commission Communication titled ‘Tackling early school leaving: A key contribution to the Europe 2020 Agenda’. The following chart shows the development of the share of early school leavers for 2009 and the relative change in percentage between 2000 and 2009.
Source EC 2011

Together, these targets may be expected to raise the profile of ESL and the relationships of transitions within educational trajectories as well as between education and the labour market with it. The Communication contains a number of explicit references to how transitions may be associated with ESL, and further implications for GOETE are evident throughout it. Transitions between schools and between different educational levels identified as particularly difficult for pupils at risk of dropping out, along with mismatches between education and training curricula and labour market needs; targeted support for pupils to cope with emotional, social or educational difficulties; the need to respond to the different learning styles of pupils and to help teachers to address the variable needs of mixed ability groups of students; and the need for personalised and flexible learning for those who prefer 'learning by doing'. The action plan envisages policy measures on three levels: prevention, intervention and compensation. We may expect there to be experimentation and innovative approaches to reduce early school leaving, and increased monitoring of the transition from school to work. Here, too, there is recognition of the need for inter-agency and cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination. Obviously the GOETE research perspectives towards access, coping and relevance of education are highly relevant in this respect.

Finally, we are faced with the possible introduction of ‘a benchmark of employability’ among school leavers. The Council Conclusions on a Strategic Framework for European cooperation in Education and Training for the next decade (“ET 2020”) of May 2009 stated that: “Given the importance of enhancing employability through education and training in order to meet current and future labour market challenges, the Commission is invited to submit to the Council a proposal for a possible European benchmark in this area by the end of 2010.”

The definition adopted by Perez et al is that “Employability is the combination of factors which enable individuals to progress towards or get into employment, to stay in employment and to progress during their career.” And they suggest that from the education and training perspective, such factors include learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and attitudes) and their relevance to the labour market, as well as learning incentives and learning opportunities.

However, the preliminary work they present is based on existing data sets, both quantitative and qualitative, and almost entirely focused on what happens after initial transition. The GOETE project therefore has the potential both of enhancing and complementing the knowledge base of such policies.

Selected Sources and Links for Further Information
EC (European Commission) (2011a): Youth on the Move website. Online at: >>http://europa.eu/youthonthemove/<< [last Feb. 15, 2011].
EC (European Commission) (2011b): ESL Proposal for Council Recommendation on policies to reduce early school leaving. Online at: >>http://ec.europa.eu/education/school-education/doc/earlyrec_en.pdf<< [last Feb. 15, 2011].
EC (European Commission) (2011c): Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Tackling Early School Leaving: A Key Contribution to the Europe 2020 Agenda. Online at: >>http://ec.europa.eu/education/school-education/doc/earlycom_en.pdf<< [last Feb. 15, 2011].
EC (European Commission) (2011d): Commission Staff Working Paper: Reducing Early School Leaving. Accompanying Document to the Proposal for a Council Recommendation on Policies to Reduce Early School Leaving. Online at: >>http://ec.europa.eu/education/school-education/doc/earlywp_en.pdf<< [last Feb. 15, 2011].
Elena Arjona Perez, Kornelia Kozovska and Christelle Garrouste (2010): ’Towards a benchmark on the contribution of Education and Training to Employability: a discussion note’. Luxembourg: European Commission Joint Research Centre.