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Procedure : 2007/2113(INI)
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Document selected : A6-0326/2007

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PV 26/09/2007 - 17
CRE 26/09/2007 - 17

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PV 27/09/2007 - 9.2
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Thursday, 27 September 2007 - Strasbourg
Efficiency and equity in European education and training systems

European Parliament resolution of 27 September 2007 on efficiency and equity in European education and training systems (2007/2113(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament entitled "Efficiency and equity in European education and training systems" (COM(2006)0481),

–   having regard to the proposal for a recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (COM(2006)0479),

–   having regard to its position adopted at second reading on 25 October 2006 with a view to the adoption of a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing an action programme in the field of lifelong learning(1), and to Decision No 1720/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 November 2006 establishing an action programme in the field of lifelong learning(2),

–   having regard to the communication from the Commission entitled "Adult learning: it is never too late to learn" (COM(2006)0614),

–   having regard to its position adopted at first reading on 26 September 2006 on the proposal for a recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on key competences for lifelong learning(3), and to Recommendation No 2006/962/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning(4),

–   having regard to its position adopted at first reading on 13 October 2005 on the proposal for a recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on further European cooperation in quality assurance in higher education(5), and to Recommendation No 2006/143/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 February 2006 on further European cooperation in quality assurance in higher education(6),

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Culture and Education and the opinion of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (A6-0326/2007),

A.   whereas in response to cuts in public budgets, the challenges of globalisation, demographic change and technological innovation, greater emphasis is being placed throughout Europe on making education and training more effective,

B.   whereas the considerable disparity in performance between education systems in the EU, as illustrated in the Pisa 2003 Report, is a matter of concern,

C.   whereas this factor might be translated into an increase in the differences in the economic and social development of the Member States and jeopardise the achievement of the Lisbon strategy goals,

D.   whereas the right to education is a principle recognised both at international level and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

E.   whereas most current education and training systems replicate and deepen existing inequalities,

F.   whereas inequity in education and training has high hidden costs,

G.   whereas investment in education and training has long-term economic and social benefits and must be planned on a long-term basis,

H.   whereas in education and training systems a culture of appraisal must be established in order to ensure that the development of those systems can be monitored effectively on a long-term basis,

I.   whereas education and training policies must be linked to policies relating to employment, the economy and social integration,

J.   whereas education and training have a fundamental role in the development of a European identity based on intercultural education and peace,

K.   whereas young women are still more likely to be unemployed than young men, given that the unemployment rate in the 27 Member States of the EU in 2006 was 18.1% for young women compared to 16.9% for young men, and whereas women are less represented in leading positions, despite the fact that in most Member States more women than men reach a high level of education,

Efficiency and equity in lifelong learning

1.  Endorses the long-term-planning process in the field of lifelong learning, since investment in that field has long-term economic and social benefits;

2.  Acknowledges that investment at one level of education not only enables skills and capabilities to be developed at that level, but also establishes the basis for the acquisition of further abilities and qualifications at other educational levels;

3.  Supports the plan to create a European qualifications framework for lifelong learning which will facilitate recognition of educational achievement and allow visible and transparent switching between different study options;

4.  Believes there to be a need for a culture of appraisal in education and training systems - hence effective long-term policies must be based on reliable measurements;

5.  Welcomes the Commission's attempt to take efficiency and equity in education into consideration when devising a framework of indicators and benchmarks for monitoring progress towards achievement of the Lisbon objectives;

6.  Believes that in order to proceed with an examination of effectiveness/efficiency and equity of education systems in Europe, the terminology, both for effectiveness/efficiency and for equity, should be clarified; for the examination of the latter, individual characteristics such as gender, ethnic origin and disability (other than socio-economic) should be included;

7.  Acknowledges that investment in lifelong learning which is aimed at improving access and equity fosters social cohesion and enables individuals to solve problems, to adapt, to build up their self-esteem and to cope with change, thereby improving their personal development and making it easier for them to deal with other changes in their lives;

8.  Calls on the Member States to implement gender responsive education and training policies and materials as a tool for the elimination of gender inequality in education and employment and for the eradication of gender stereotypes; urges the Member States to promote gender-atypical employment (for example more male teachers in primary schools and more women in science) for young people, including young children before the age at which key educational and career decisions are taken and in such a way that gender based occupational segregation is reduced; reiterates that higher quality gender-and-age-disaggregated data is a prerequisite for any policy;

Ensuring efficiency and equity in the framework of education and training policies
Pre-school education: emphasis on teaching the very young

9.  Believes that efficiency and equity can be achieved on an individual basis if investment and reform are focused on the early stages of education;

10.  Stresses the need to develop, from the pre-school phase, measures to encourage the integration of children from third countries resident in the territory of the European Union;

11.  Calls upon the Member States to invest much more in pre-school - including nursery -education, since such investment can be an effective means of establishing a basis for future education, for developing a child's intellect and for raising overall skills levels, and can significantly increase the equity of the education system;

12.  Believes however that more research into pre-school education is necessary at EU level, in particular in the field of early and targeted actions, in order to identify practices which produce the expected effects;

13.  Considers the quality of pre-school education to be partly dependent on adequately trained teachers, and that there is therefore a need for a financially viable strategy which will result in both future-oriented and high quality education and satisfactory teaching careers;

14.  Acknowledges that as from the pre-school stage, social diversity of classes and establishments must be ensured in order to avoid a differentiation of curricula and expectations;

15.  Believes the involvement of parents by means of educational and information programmes (particularly in the case of disadvantaged children) to be important to the success of pre-school education;

16.  Is in favour of all forms of pre-school education and intervention at an early age (when children's cognitive skills are developing) - this being of all the stages in the entire process of life-long learning the one which pays the highest dividend;

17.  Urges Member States to increase the number of subsidised places in pre-school education, thereby offering better opportunities to children under school age who lack financial security to benefit from the education system;

Primary and secondary education: improving the quality of primary education for all

18.  Emphasises that compulsory attendance at school, as well as the training system, should provide basic education and key skills; stresses further that education and appropriate key skills contribute to the achievement of fundamental social and civic values, strengthen social cohesion and help to improve individual levels of qualification and employability;

19.  Notes that the role of schools, particularly at primary and secondary level, must above all take account of intercultural values and education for peace, these being the hallmarks of a European identity;

20.  Believes that premature categorisation has a detrimental effect on efficiency and equity in education systems;

21.  Believes that equal access by disadvantaged people to quality education can improve the efficiency and equity of European education systems;

22.  Favours, on the other hand, creating a flexible range of study options at secondary school level, which should not preclude a choice of a different track at subsequent educational stages;

23.  Urges the Member States to monitor all school careers, particularly at moments of choice and orientation, and to ensure that their education systems support pupils and students by motivating their efforts to achieve their personal development;

24.  In view of the different levels of support from which each pupil may benefit at home, throughout his/her school career, and the sometimes very unequal nature of the education provided, supports efforts to involve parents in the education process with a view to significantly reducing the risk of future social exclusion;

25.  Calls upon Member States to support initial and further training for teachers, to boost their motivation and to improve the qualitative conditions of school life - these being decisive factors in the achievement of efficiency and equity;

26.  Urges Member States to promote multilingualism at every level in the educational system, thereby improving the mobility of children, juveniles and adults within European territory and making the educational process within the EU more efficient;

27.  Encourages Member States to raise awareness of gender equality among teachers and education providers in order that they be able to promote respect for this principle among the younger generation;

University education: increasing investment and widening access

28.  Acknowledges that university education is a key aspect of a knowledge-based economy and society;

29.  Supports the plan to modernise universities with a view to ensuring that university education becomes more competitive, is available to everyone on an equitable basis and remains financially viable and effective;

30.  Calls upon Member States to increase efficiency and equity by creating suitable conditions and incentives for securing increased investment from public and private sources;

31.  Acknowledges that providing university education free of charge will not necessarily and by itself guarantee equity; calls in that regard for further studies based on the assumption that tuition fees are not an isolated issue but are part of a nexus of factors connected with financial incentives and accompanying financial support which, in the case of disadvantaged groups, can reduce inequity in terms of access to university education;

32.  Emphasises that universities must devise comprehensive information and admission policies so as to be able to react to rapidly evolving social and economic needs;

Vocational education and training: increasing quality and value

33.  Considers that, viewed in the light of an ageing population, the problem of permanently high youth unemployment is becoming increasingly serious;

34.  In view of the problem of an ageing population, supports better provision of adult education in order to make it easier for people to adapt to the requirements of the employment market and for the low-skilled to become involved in education;

35.  Stresses that young people with the lowest levels of educational achievement have great difficulty in entering the employment market and are the most vulnerable in the event of an economic downturn, run a higher risk of unemployment and are likely to end up doing less skilled work or casual labour;

36.  Calls on Member States to promote access to education and training for young women, especially women from remote regions and vulnerable groups such as migrant women, women from ethnic minorities, disabled women and low-skilled women; calls on Member States to identify and exchange best practices in this field and urges the social partners and private and public undertakings to eliminate all forms of discrimination, to actively encourage the provision of work-based training by removing all age-related barriers and to support leave for training purposes for the disadvantaged;

37.  Calls on Member States to promote access to publicly funded adult training schemes for unemployed women and those who have not succeeded in the compulsory education system;

38.  Calls on Member States to implement policies to facilitate the school-to-work transition for young people, with special attention being given to young women, who tend to experience more difficulties; emphasises that the higher quality of, and better access to, education and training and investments during youth have implications for the labour market during the latter stages of life; notes that an evaluation mechanism should be put in place in order to be able to assess the efficiency and impact of government education spending on young unemployed people, especially young women;

39.  Calls on Member States to support university excellence programmes, since by providing highly qualified specialists in different areas, demand on the employment market would be met more effectively;

40.  Points out that equal access for women and men to new technologies should be encouraged within education and training so as to bridge the digital divide between the sexes;

41.  Urges Member States to increase the proportion of, and strengthen the position of, women in science, engineering and technology; calls on the national governments to boost the number of women in leading positions and to measure progress by adopting qualitative and quantitative targets;

42.  Recommends improved access to tertiary education and the development of opportunities for those who have completed their training to continue studying and further their education whilst working;

43.  Emphasises that the training programmes on offer should be flexible in order to take into account the demand on the employment market, this being a particularly effective way of increasing employment opportunities for disadvantaged people; acknowledges in that regard that public investment should focus on the most disadvantaged target groups as they benefit the least from continuing training;

44.  Calls on Member States to promote the flexible organisation of studies, in partnership with higher education and vocational training establishments, in order to meet more effectively the needs of young men and women who are working or attending to family responsibilities at the same time as studying and to prevent them from leaving education prematurely;

45.  Calls upon Member States to involve educational institutions, companies, the social and other partners and the public sector in a joint partnership for the implementation of successful training programmes;

European Union action

46.  Emphasises that the fundamental goal of EU action is to promote the convergence of EU education systems towards higher standards of performance;

47.  Believes that in order to better target EU action it would be necessary to develop a process, based on reports periodically submitted by Member States as well as on independent verification, for the appraisal of the performance of education and training systems in the EU, paying particular attention to the acquisition of basic skills by pupils and to the achievement of equity objectives;

48.  Asks the Commission to publish regular reports on efficiency and equity in EU education and training systems in order to monitor progress towards higher standards of performance;

49.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ C 313 E, 20.12.2006, p. 187.
(2) OJ L 327, 24.11.2006, p. 45.
(3) OJ C 306 E, 15.12.2006, p. 165.
(4) OJ L 394, 30.12.2006, p. 10.
(5) OJ C 233 E, 28.9.2006, p. 100.
(6) OJ L 64, 4.3.2006, p. 60.

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