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The results of the Special Barometer 417: European Area of Skills and Qualifications, published in mid-June, show that education and training in Europe need improvement in many aspects, from better visibility to better recognition across countries to more stimulating learning environments and motivating teachers.
The survey was conducted between 26 April and 11 May in face-to-face interviews with around 28 000 people in all 28 member states. Additional data were collected through the European Commission’s online consultation with education and training experts in 36 European countries between December 2013 and April 2014.
According to the results, the most important aspect of education and training, and one that needs most improvement concerns teachers and their ability to engage and motivate learners. Stimulating learning environment comes next in importance, followed by practical experience at workplace. Non-formal and informal learning contexts are recognised by the majority of the respondents (95%) as valuable opportunities to learn and gain relevant skills, in particular foreign languages and job-related skills.
The lack of recognition of qualifications remains an issue across member states on various levels. Namely, just over half of the respondents think that their qualifications would be recognised in other member states, whereas 6% have actually tried to work or study in another EU country but were not able to. The main reasons, as stated in the report, were the lack of recognition by prospective employers or education institutions (12% and 7% respectively), and the lack of information about the recognition of qualifications in another EU country (7%). Another challenge that the report points to is the visibility of EU tools to document skills and qualifications: only a third of respondents have heard of at least one of the tools, mostly the Europass CV (15%). Moreover, only 12% have heard of the European Qualifications Framework and just around 9% know their level of qualification according to its classification.
Despite the challenges, the overall respondents’ attitude to their education experiences appears to be mainly positive – 86% say it was good. However, not as many (73%) think that their education or training has given them the necessary skills to find a job in line with their qualifications. Here is how the respondents rank the importance of skills provided by education: basic skills (62%), followed by job-specific skills (34%), skills which can be used in different jobs (30%), subject-specific skills (26%) and foreign languages (24%). The relevance of these skills varies across the member states, reflecting the differences in national education systems and labour markets. Thus, comparing the results among the countries, basic skills have most relevance in Germany (73%), job-specific skills are most valued in Slovakia (48%), “soft” skills – those that can be used in different jobs – have most importance in Denmark (52%), subject-specific skills are most appreciated in Greece (41%) while foreign languages have primacy in Luxembourg (43%).
The findings confirm once again that the recognition of qualifications and a wide-ranging lack of information are two big hurdles in European education, but they also indicate how relevant actors - students and teachers, universities and employers – can work together on overcoming them.