My honourable friend the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education (Bill Rammell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I attended the meeting chaired by the German Education and Research Minister, Dr Annette Schavan. The meeting focused on two areas for discussion: the contribution that education policy can make to promote the acceptance and dissemination of shared European values and the theme “Making Lifelong Learning a Reality for All”, which focused on developing pre-primary education and adult learning.
Representatives of about 40 countries attended: the EU-27, the EEA and the western Balkans.
The overall discussion on European values was wide ranging, with a number of member states citing active citizenship, the importance of language learning and mobility as contributions that education can make to Europe, as well as the more general values of freedom, respect and tolerance. I used my intervention to warn against trying to define a set of common European values to be included in a curriculum, as everyone holds different views. I made it clear that education and curriculum are national not EU competencies.
There was general consensus in the discussion on adult learning and early childhood education, with all speakers agreeing that these formed important parts of lifelong learning. I spoke strongly in favour of lifelong learning, referring to the Leitch review of skills, which shows how adults need to be equipped to perform higher skilled jobs. Extra investment is needed not just from the state but from the employer and the individual, too, and investing in skills it is important to respond to the needs of business. The chair did not try to summarise the discussion, which had been very general; however, a final communiqué will be prepared by the presidency and made available to participants.