The European Commission sets out new strategy for quality and inclusive education
The Commission has released a new strategy to modernise the European education systems. The Commission identifies developing better and more inclusive schools as one of the key areas where action is needed and it sets out how the European level can support Member States addressing the challenges their education systems face.
On 30 May 2017, the European Commission presented its new strategy to support high quality, inclusive and future-oriented school and higher education. The package comprises two renewed EU agendas to modernise education, one in schools and the other in higher education.
With regard to schools, the Commission identifies key challenges that virtually all Member States share such as the fact that school education does not always play in full its role to promote equity and social fairness.
PISA data show that educational achievements greatly depend on the pupil’s socio-economic background. On average, more than a third of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in the EU show low levels of educational achievement (this is four times more than their peers with more advantaged backgrounds). Other specific challenges faced by pupils like those from a Roma background amplify this. The Commission points at Estonia and Finland as examples of school education systems that deliver high levels of both achievement and equity.
Although undertaking the reforms required to address these challenges is a task for Member States, the Communication identifies three key areas where action is needed and where EU support can help Member States to address them:
- raising the quality and inclusiveness of schools;
- supporting excellent teachers and school leaders;
- improving the governance of school education systems.
For each of these areas, the Communication sets out EU action to assist Member States in addressing the challenges their education systems face.
In order to complement actions taken by Member States to develop better and more inclusive schools, the Commission will:
– promote and support policy experimentation on developing teaching in diverse classrooms as part of the 2018 Erasmus+ workplan, and;
-further support Member States in providing sufficient high quality early childhood education and care and step up efforts to help them learn from each other and identify what works best.
The Communication highlights the importance of early childhood education and the particularly positive impact of high quality early childhood education for children from disadvantaged and migrant backgrounds and stresses that in a number of countries, Roma lack access to high quality education.
In order to complement actions taken by Member States to improve the governance of school education systems to become more effective, equitable and efficient, the Commission will:
-propose a joint report on the effectiveness and efficiency of expenditure in school education, and;
-set up a demand driven technical support arrangement in cooperation with the OECD to help Member States who voluntarily seek assistance, to design and implement major school education reforms. The Commission services, including the Structural Reform Support Service, and EU funding instruments (such as the ESI Funds and Erasmus+) could provide support.
The Communication stresses that making the best use of limited resources to enhance the performance of all students is of critical importance. PISA surveys show that effective educational outcomes cannot be achieved below a minimum level of financing. Unfortunately, as the 2016 Education and Training Monitor revealed, some Member States have not been investing sufficiently to achieve good long-term results. The Communication also notes that at a comparable level of spending, some Member States achieve better results than others.
A key question for future cooperation is whether to set a more ambitious benchmark in the fight against early school-leaving.
An Education Summit, planned for early 2018, will address equity in education and how to better support disadvantaged groups in education. It will offer a first opportunity to discuss the future of European cooperation in education and especially in school education.
 The Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) is a Department within the European Commission that provides tailor-made technical support to EU countries that want to carry out structural reforms as part of their efforts to support job creation and sustainable growth.