During this informal meeting in Nicosia, EU Education Ministers will focus on the central role of education in implementing the Europe 2020 strategy for jobs and growth.
Professor Christopher Pissarides, the 2010 Nobel Prize winner for Economic Sciences, will address the Ministers on the link between education and economic performance - an issue highlighted in the OECD's recent 'Education At A Glance' report, which showed that a European graduate can expect a net gain of around €140 000 over his working life and that public long-term benefits from higher education through increased tax payments and other savings are almost three times the size of the public costs (IP/12/947). The Ministers will also discuss the recommendations of the Commission's High Level Group on Literacy, which were unveiled last month (IP/12/940).
Education and training
"I am pleased that the Cyprus Presidency has put education and growth at the centre of its agenda. In times of crisis the need to invest in education is greater than ever; that is why the European Commission has proposed a significant increase in the budget for 'Erasmus for All', our new programme for education, training and youth. This would enable us to double the number of students and others benefitting from grants for study, training and volunteering opportunities abroad, from 400 000 a year now to up to 900 000 a year in 2014-2020,"said Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. "These opportunities are invaluable for enhancing skills and employability. My message to Finance Ministers and Prime Ministers is simple: think of our young people first when it comes to deciding where your priorities in the future EU budget."
Current estimates show that the number of jobs requiring higher-level qualifications is set to rise to 35% of all jobs by 2020, but only 26% of the total workforce is currently educated to tertiary level. As part of its blueprint for a sustainable and inclusive economy, the Europe 2020 strategy includes two education targets - to reduce the rate of early school leavers to below 10%, compared with 13.5% now, and to increase the share of young people with tertiary level qualifications to 40%, compared with 34.6% at present.
The contribution of education to growth and jobs will also be discussed at the 'Education and Training Forum' on 18-19 October in Brussels.
The Commission will propose a new policy initiative entitled "Re-thinking Education" before the end of 2012. This is aimed at ensuring that all levels of education provide young people with the skills and competences they need to succeed in life and in their careers, as well as providing a long-term foundation for sustainable growth.
On 6 September the EU's High Level Group of experts on literacy presented its report, with a 'wake-up call' for Europe to address the literacy crisis. The group of experts, under the chairmanship of H.R.H. Princess Laurentien of The Netherlands, analysed research and best practice from across Europe and made recommendations aimed at all age groups.
One in five 15 year olds, as well as nearly 75 million adults, lack basic reading and writing skills, which makes it hard for them to get a job and increases their risk of poverty and social exclusion. At their informal meeting, Ministers will discuss the challenges they face in overcoming the literacy 'taboo' and the action that needs to be taken at national and European level to ensure that 'literacy for all' becomes a reality. Ministers from France, Poland, Ireland and The Netherlands will present their national literacy policies and strategies. The discussion will feed into Council conclusions on literacy, which are expected to be adopted by the Education Council in November.