At the 2nd European Education Summit, 26 September 2019, Commissioner Tibor Navracsics presented the Education and Training Monitor (ETM) 2019, specifically focused on teachers. Though teachers have the greatest impact on learning outcomes, European countries suffer from teacher shortages, an ageing profession, and difficulties in retaining young teachers. Teachers across Europe echo concerns that their profession is not valued, as their salaries are significantly lower compared to other professions with tertiary-educated workers. However, not only salaries impact their status, but also insufficient or inadequate initial teacher education and continuous professional development. Sixteen percent of teachers report a need for more training on ICT and 13% report the need for further training in teaching in multicultural and multilingual environments. Accounting for ET 2020 targets, the ETM 2019 reveals that basic skills attainment remains the biggest challenge as the EU is far from its target of reducing the number of underachieving 15-years old pupils to 15%. With enrolment in almost all education levels increasing, with the exception of adult education, the focus has shifted to ensuring an increase in learning outcomes, to facilitating the acquisition of competences for future life and employment, and to ensuring that participation in adult education increases as well.
In this context, SOLIDAR Foundation is relaunching its Citizenship and Lifelong Learning Monitor 2018, highlighting the need to focus on civic and intercultural competences, and to account for shortcomings in civic competences acquisition in many European countries. Though reading, maths and science remain essential, achievement in them is insufficient for ensuring active participation in society and capacities to exert rights fully. Pupils’ personal development requires civic and intercultural competences in the curriculum and in foreseen educational outcomes for each European country. This is to be extended to teacher training as well, since 13% of them claim to lack pedagogical tools to work in multicultural environments. Moreover, for pupils to adapt to digitalisation, digital and media literacy skills must be promoted in schools and, implicitly, teachers must be prepared to use ICT in classrooms.
ETM 2019 identifies essential teacher needs, but in accounting for ET 2020 targets it misses on wider needs related to learners’ personal development and to their ability to effectively participate in society and maintain European democracy. The inadequacy in acquiring civic, digital and media literacy competences, coupled with low participation in adult education, reveal that many people lack the tools to engage in active citizenship and that the lifelong learning perspective must be strengthened.
In spite of these challenges, the ETM 2019 presents an optimistic view of EU education funding. Though spending on education as a percentage of GDP has decreased since 2014, EU Member States’ GDP increased in real terms, while real expenditure on education increased in 21 of the 28 Member States. Worrying trends are exhibited in Romania, where spending on education has decreased by 15% since the previous year, but overall, the EU-level situation points towards a recovery in education investment. However, investment needs to be further increased, and this must be used to promote the acquisition of the digital and civic competences needed for EU citizens to adapt to the current society.
Read more in our Monitor about reinforcing European Union values and ensuring Europe’s democratic renewal process through education and lifelong learning.