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EU Education Council

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 10 December 2008

I represented the UK at the Education Council, on behalf of DIUS and DCSF.

Summary

The council adopted resolutions on multilingualism and on lifelong guidance. The Council also agreed conclusions on co-operation on schools; vocational education and training; and youth mobility. The texts of all the dossiers adopted are in line with UK national priorities.

Council

A resolution was adopted on multilingualism which recognises the value of multilingualism both in terms of personal development and to the economy. The UK agrees with these overall goals, but has worked to ensure that the definition of multilingualism is as wide as possible, including world languages and less widely used European languages.

Ministers agreed conclusions on enhanced co-operation in vocational education and training.

These conclusions form the latest review of the Copenhagen process which was designed to improve European co-operation on vocational education and training. Commissioner Figel noted that their communication “New Skills for New Jobs”, to be published on 16 December, would have a key role to play in linking vocational education and training to the labour market.

A resolution was adopted on guidance in lifelong learning. This resolution aims to strengthen the role of guidance within countries’ national lifelong learning strategies and to strengthen European co-operation in this field. A ministerial debate flagged the wide range of approaches underway in different countries. I highlighted the new Apprenticeships Bill and the adult advancement and careers service as examples of the work the UK is doing.

Ministers adopted conclusions on European co-operation on schools, which propose areas of focus for future co-operation at a European level on schools through the open method of co-ordination. The conclusions acknowledge that the responsibility for organising school systems and education policy lies entirely with member states. All who spoke welcomed the text and agreed that, although this was an area of member state competence, the EU had a useful co-ordination role in helping countries to meet their 2010 goals in education and training under the Lisbon strategy. By the end of this year, the commission would also publish their draft priorities in the area of education and training for the period up to 2020.

Ministers adopted conclusions on youth mobility, which seek to increase the numbers of young people spending a period of time abroad through undertaking part of their studies participating in EU mobility programmes. Ministers discussed the importance of mobility both for the development of individuals and also for the labour market. I highlighted our increasing numbers of Erasmus participants, the aim to widen participation to less advantaged groups, and the increased language learning among teachers.

The presidency presented updates on the adoption of a new credit system in vocational training, quality assurance in vocational training, and the next phase of the Erasmus Mundus programme. The Commission presented information on the Europa diary; learning to learn; collaborative working with India and Israel; and on the Euroskills event held in Rotterdam in September. Portugal and Poland announced their bids to host the 2010 Euroskills event. I welcomed the Rotterdam event and noted that we would host Worldskills in London in 2011. The Czech Minister presented the Czech Republic’s presidency priorities in the field of education. These comprised the future strategy in education and training post-2010; encouraging partnerships between education and employers; and pressing for progress in higher education via the Bologna process.