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Summit to set the lifelong challenge

A Europe-wide personal card listing skills gained at work rather than formal qualifications is just one of the ideas to be presented to the European Union summit in Madrid next weekend.

Greater opportunity for pupils to learn other European languages and a second chance for young people who missed out at school are two other schemes contained in Teaching and Learning - towards a knowledge-based society, a white paper on education and training.

Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission, will present the paper to leaders of the EU's 15 nations as 1996, the European Year of Lifelong Learning, approaches.

The paper sets out the educational challenges facing the EU. It was prepared by Edith Cresson, European commissioner for research, education and training, with Padraig Flynn and Martin Bangemann, commissioners for social affairs and industry respectively.

The paper covers teaching workers the skills they need and training them to adapt to rapidly-changing demands. It says ways must be found to give people the skills and qualities which will serve them throughout their lives and that those excluded from mainstream society should be helped to rejoin it.

Europe must adapt to three major changes, says the paper. Information technology is transforming the organisation of work and obliging individuals to adapt; the state of the global economy is disrupting job creation and making higher educational qualifications necessary throughout Europe; and the speed of scientific and technological progress, though leading to higher standards of living, is also frightening many people.

While information and knowledge are becoming more accessible, it says, the drastic changes to systems of work and to the skills required are leaving some people behind. Society must therefore invest in intelligence and learning.

The paper sets out five main aims for member states: * Encourage the acquisition of knowledge, other than by traditional methods. A flexible European assessment scheme could be introduced which would recognise technical or professional skills gained in the workplace over time - for example, a clerk who learns accountancy over a number of years - and record them on a personal "skills card"; * Set up a network of apprenticeship centres to encourage worker mobility under a scheme similar to the successful Erasmus student and teacher exchange programme; * Act against exclusion by offering young people a second chance, through education and training schemes; and by topping up national or local initiatives with European resources; * Promoting "European classes" in schools, with the aim of teaching pupils three European languages; * Encouraging businesses to provide training programmes, through tax and other incentives.

The text of Teaching and Learning - towards a knowledge-based society is available on the Internet at http:www.cec.luencommdg22dg22.html.

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