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School Education: Equipping a New Generation

The European Commission helps EU Member States to work together to develop their school education systems.

 

  The majority of Europeans spend at least nine or ten years at school. It is where they gain the basic knowledge, skills and competences that they need throughout their lives, and the place where fundamental attitudes and values develop.
  Schools should set their pupils on the path to a lifetime of learning, if they are to prepare them for the modern world. A sound school education system also helps ensure open and democratic societies by training people in citizenship, solidarity and participative democracy.
  While each EU Member State is responsible for the organisation and content of its education and training systems, there are advantages in working together on common issues. The European Commission supports national efforts in two main ways:

  Through the Comenius programme, it invests millions of euros each year in projects that promote school exchanges, school development, the education of school staff, school assistantships and more.

  The Commission works closely with national policy-makers to help them develop their school education policies and systems. It gathers and shares information and analysis and encourages the exchange of good policy practices.

 

  Priority areas

  The present inequalities in education and training have significant hidden costs for individuals, societies and economies. Education should be efficient in producing a high standard of excellence and equitable in raising the general level of skills. Social inclusion is another key concern.
  Education ministers from EU Member States have set themselves four broad areas to work on to improve national school systems, including priorities such as teacher education, key competences, language learning, ICT, maths, science and technology, active citizenship and social cohesion.
  Challenges in these areas are considerable. One-quarter of young people under the age of 15 only attain the lowest level of proficiency in reading; 15% of young people aged 18-24 leave school prematurely; only 78% of 22-year-olds have completed their upper secondary education; the level of interest in some subjects, such as science and mathematics, is low.

 

  Key competences

  Schools should help pupils take responsibility for their own learning and personal development throughout their lives and provide them with the essential ‘competences ’ – i.e. knowledge, skills and attitudes – for successful membership of society and the workforce.
  The European Union's Framework of Key Competences identifies these fundamental competences and aims to help countries to revise their school curricula to reflect the changing needs of society and the economy.

 

   Early childhood education and care

  Member States agree that good-quality and more accessible early childhood education and care provision is required in order to ensure that education and training systems are equitable, efficient and of high quality.

 

  Schools and migration

  The full inclusion of disadvantaged groups in school is a challenge for education authorities. Since schools are a microcosm of society, school populations reflect migration patterns. In several countries, over 10% of pupils aged 15 have parents who were born abroad – and some EU Member States are facing this phenomenon for the first time. The presence of pupils from a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds is a rich source of learning opportunities, but it also presents considerable challenges.

 

  Social inclusion

  School helps to prepare young people to live in a community and to be responsible and active citizens. Democracy in schools can help to create a climate of confidence and responsibility. However, societal trends such as violence, radicalism or fundamentalism and expressions of racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism are inevitably also reflected in school communities; safety in schools is another priority area for several Member States.

 

  Teacher training

  The quality of the education experienced by pupils is linked directly to the quality of teaching. But the demands placed upon teachers are increasing and changing, and the education they receive is not always adequate. Member States have therefore agreed to improve the quality of teacher education and the Commission is working with them in this task.

 
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