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Education - Culture - Youth

1. Towards Education and Training 2010

Stefan Wolff, professor of political science at the University of Bath, has spoken of the beginning of a “truly European” identity. Wolff has predicted that in the years to come, Europe will be run by leaders with “less national wrangling, less Brussels-bashing and more unity in EU policy making”. Notably, Wolff called these future leaders the “Erasmus Generation,” after the popular EU ERASMUS Programme for higher education.

In the 20 years since ERASMUS was initiated, over 1,2 million students have travelled to participating countries to live and study. As a result, these students have a competitive edge in the job market, due to their exposure to other EU cultures and languages, an internationally salient and certifiable education and the trappings of the cosmopolitan, knowledge society the EU of tomorrow will epitomize.

An important step in European education was taken in 1998, when Ministers of Education from France, Germany, the UK and Italy signed the Sorbonne Declaration to harmonise higher education. The intention of Sorbonne was expanded the following year at the University of Bologna, the oldest, continually operating institution of higher education in Europe, by the Bologna Declaration. The Declaration's 29 signatories, all European countries, began what is called the Bologna Process to create the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

The Bologna Process was augmented over the years by subsequent meetings of European ministers of education and various developments within the European Commission.

  • Prague Declaration of May 2001 – added three elements to the Bologna Process, including the concepts of Lifelong Learning, student involvement and making the European Higher Education Area attractive to and competitive with other parts of the world.
  • Berlin Summit September 2003 – 40 countries present, stressed that higher education is a public duty with a strong social dimension; set a 2005 deadline for a quality-standards system for bachelor and masters degrees and an international recognition system for degrees and studies; sought to establish a stronger link between the EHEA and the research sector; plans to make national loans and grants mobile; stressed involvement in student organizations
  • Bergen Summit 19-20 May 2005 – Established goals for the 2007 London summit, including the implementation for standards and guidelines of the NQA report and national frameworks for education; guidelines for awarding and recognizing joint-institutional degrees between nations; creation of opportunities for flexible methods of higher education including assessments of prior learning; Higher Education European Qualifications Framework recognizing the three levels of education: first degree, Masters and PhD.

Today, a key priority of the European Union is to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion (European Council, Lisbon, March 2000). European Governments realized that to attain this objective the fundamental modernization of the education and training systems was necessary. In 2002, they set as an aim that by 2010 Europe should be recognized as the world leader in terms of the quality of education and training systems.

Ministers of education agreed on three major goals to be achieved by 2010 for the benefit of the citizens and the EU as a whole, in the Education and Training 2010 program:

  • to improve the quality and effectiveness of EU education and training systems;
  • to ensure that they are accessible to all;
  • to open up education and training to the wider world.

To achieve these goals, they agreed on thirteen specific objectives covering the various types and levels of education and training (formal, non-formal and informal) aimed at realizing lifelong learning. Systems have to improve on all fronts: teacher training; basic skills; integration of Information and Communication Technologies; efficiency of investments; language learning; lifelong guidance; flexibility of the systems to make learning accessible to all, mobility, citizenship education, etc.

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