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As the deadline for achieving the five benchmarks set for Education and Training in 2010 is swiftly approaching, the discussions during the most recent Education, Youth and Culture Council (EYC) meeting (16 February) were centered on the future of Education and Training beyond this deadline. The debate in the Council had as a starting point a Presidency discussion paper and the European Commission’s proposal for a new strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training that is to cover the period until 2020 (for background information on the proposal see ACA Newsletter - Education Europe January 2009 edition).
Based on these documents, Education Ministers were called upon to give an answer to two essential questions. Primarily, they were inquired whether the areas covered by the five “old” objectives (out of which only one – the number of tertiary education graduates in mathematics, science and technology - will be achieved by 2010), should be maintained and updated, taking into account the investment already made by member states to reach them and the efforts still needed in this respect. On this issue, general consensus was reached that the remaining four benchmarks should roughly be preserved in order to build on the progress already registered. Secondly, the ministers were asked to identify the “most urgent new priorities with potential added value for European cooperation in education and training, including through the development of benchmarks and/or indicators”. Regarding the latter query, diverging opinions emerged in relation to the six additional benchmarks proposed by the European Commission. The reactions were not that surprising, as education does not fall under the competences of the Commission, but under the Open Method of Coordination (OMC). Hence the reaction of some member states that "less is sometimes more".
While having adopted the key messages addressed to the Spring European Council on European cooperation in the field of education and training, all ministers agreed that more detailed work on the number, content and scope of the benchmarks would be required in order to prepare the ground for adoption of the updated strategic framework at the next Education Council in May 2009.