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European Commission demands skills offensive

On 20 November 2012, the European Commission published a Communication entitled “Rethinking Education: Investing in skills for better socio-economic outcomes”. The document, which repeats known positions and adds new ideas, calls for a comprehensive and determined skills strategy at all levels of Europe’s education and training systems. The EU Commission argues that the days are over when Europe’s competitors provided only low-skilled services. In order to stay competitive on world markets and to sustain and revitalise the Union’s labour markets, Europe needed to reduce skills mismatches and raise skills levels.

The skills strategy behind the Communication is broad: the Commission asks for the improvement of transversal and basic skills, particularly in the entrepreneurial field, but also STEM-related skills. It insists that the basis of any meaningful skills strategy are foundation skills such as literacy, numeracy, and basic maths and science, but it also calls for increased foreign language competencies, the development of high-quality vocational education and training (VET) systems (“world-class”), including importantly work-based learning and apprenticeships, and for mobility.

The key messages to member states are the following: promote excellence in VET; improve achievement level of pupil groups with high risks of early school leaving and low basic skills; strengthen provision of employability-enhancing transversal skills (entrepreneurial initiative, digital skills and foreign languages); reduce the number of low skilled adults; increase the use of ICT-supported learning; and strengthen the professional profile of all teaching professions.

The Communication is accompanied by a number of “staff working papers” which display policy evidence and good practice, country sheets with information on EU member states’ performance and reforms in education and training, as well as the first edition of an “Education and Training Monitor”, providing information on progress (or otherwise) towards the Europe 2020 headline targets.

European Commission - Communication European Commission – Staff working document