Written by Ivana Katsarova,
Over one third of the European Union (EU) population – some 170 million citizens – are aged under 30, with half that number under the age of 15 years. Although education policies in the EU are essentially decided and implemented by the individual EU countries, the EU provides sound evidence and analysis to help national governments make informed policy decisions and drive reforms to improve educational outcomes and the employability of young people. For this purpose, in 2009, the EU set a series of common objectives to address the most pressing concerns in EU education systems by 2020.
In several areas, the EU scores well. In 2015, 39 % of the EU workforce held a higher education degree. Between 2005 and 2015, the percentage of early school leavers decreased by some 30 %, even though during 2016, progress towards meeting the EU target slowed and currently stands at an average of 11 % – one percentage point away from achieving the target.
However, the EU faces the major challenge of further upskilling its population and reducing under-achievement in basic skills. In specific terms, the results show that over 22 % of EU students have low achievement levels in mathematics, nearly 18 % in reading, and some 17 % in science. Moreover, by 2020, the EU aims for at least 15 % participation in learning among the population aged 25-64 years. Nevertheless, progress towards this target has been very limited. The EU average in adult learning stood at some 11 % in 2014 (the target was 15 %), and did not increase in 2015. Only urgent and substantive action will enable the EU to reach the benchmark.
On a more optimistic note, the Erasmus student mobility programme that has allowed more than 9 million Europeans to study abroad, turns 30 in 2017. Widely recognised as one of the most successful EU programmes, Erasmus provides a concrete example of the positive impact of European integration.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Creating opportunities: The EU and students‘.
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