Editor's note

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Wednesday, 21.11.2018, 15:02

Modern education: facing new challenges

Eugene Eteris, BC, Riga/Copenhagen, 29.08.2017.Print version

Students in countries around the Baltic Sea region are having a tough time: some got already a place in the university or other high schools, others still undecided about a new profession. At the time of a new school year, it is well-worth looking at education process: whether it fits with the modern social and business challenges?

Education process for most of students is aimed at making a basis for knowledge needed for the rest of their lives, both professionally and socially. During university’s time students would form such “life’s patterns” that would guide them through adult life, working time, families and friendship. Much, of course depends on whether education is for a short or long period, something practical or/and academic.


However, students’ life is not an easy endeavor: e.g. in Denmark about one-fourth of the new enrolment would drop out (that makes about 15 thousand yearly!); almost the same picture is in the Baltic States (see below).         


The reasons for “leavers” are numerous; though one of the serious ones is bad characters in the grammar/primary schools: future students are just not ready for going on… The lack of basic knowledge can hamper students’ future life too. 


Definitely, schools to be blamed: they have to re-assess volumes of new knowledge future students would need in the universities. But main challenge is: what kind of profession students would need in future after 4-5 years in a university? Would they get the “dream job” or a needed profession to sustain a family?  


Thus, often education issues in national political decisions are more than just educational. Students’ choice have to “guided” by the structural changes in a new national sustainable economy, i.e. what economy sectors would provide additional welfare growth. Education is generally an integral part of national political economy structures.   

Latvian issues

The first account of students’ choice in main 12 Latvian universities/high schools is the following (main figures as to the end of July 2017): legal studies, computer’s systems/technologies, medical studies, communication and psychology. Total number of students reached over 8 thousand people


Some news is really alarming: less than 40% of school leavers in Latvia are going to take further education in some high colleges and universities. Children’s’ low graduating marks/grades in math, physics and chemistry do not suffice for entering higher education institutions.  

Former Latvian State University’s rector, Marcis Auzinsh argued for example that the main problem is somehow a social one: “Latvian people are limp and slack; they still think that someone would rather solve all the problems for them, e.g. government, politicians, etc.” Such stagnant attitude is most clearly seen through people’s attitude to parties, he added.  



EU’s initiatives

The importance of high quality education in building a resilient and competitive Europe is a priority for the European Commission as well. However, the latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey indicate weaknesses in competence development.

In some countries, poor educational outcomes are being transferred from generation to generation, making the fight against inequality particularly difficult. Concrete action is needed, therefore, to bridge this gap and ensure that all pupils are equipped with the right skills and competences needed in today's economy and society. The Commission’s education package, adopted in May 2017, is designed to support Member States in working towards this objective with a series of actions aimed at delivering on the commitments made by the Commission in the Investing in Europe’s Youth initiative.

See more in: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=COM:2016:940:FIN  

Two Commissioners Jyrki Katainen and Tibor Navracsics are mainly responsible for the EU’s “education package”, which outlines the Commission’s progressive cooperation with the member states in making both school and higher education more inclusive and future-oriented.

The European project is about building a better future for European citizens. This also means investing in young people, providing them with new opportunities and helping them to seize these opportunities. It is about giving young people the best possible start in life by investing in their knowledge, skills and experiences, helping them to find or train for their first job and giving them an opportunity to make their voice heard. This investment in young people lays the foundation for a fair, open and democratic society, for social mobility and inclusion as well as for sustained growth and employment.

Some changes however occurred during last couple of years: thus, for example the new Erasmus+ has replaced seven previous Commission programmes: Lifelong Learning Programme (Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Comenius and Grundtvig); Youth in Action; Erasmus Mundus; Tempus, Alfa, Edulink and Programme for cooperation with industrialised countries.

The actions of the Erasmus + programme are divided into decentralised actions and centralised actions. The decentralised actions are managed in each programme country by National Agencies that are appointed by their national authorities. The centralised actions are managed at a European level by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) located in Brussels. See more: https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/taxonomy/term/264


The Agency is also responsible for the management of the Eurydice Network which provides analysis and comparable data on education systems and policies in Europe.

Source: https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/about-eacea_en

Investing in Europe’s Youth initiative

The Commission’s Communication "Investing in Europe's Youth" puts forward concrete EU actions aiming at helping young people to get the job, education and training opportunities they deserve. The challenges are huge; they are shared by all EU states as only a broad partnership and a joint commitment between the EU and the member states can deliver the step change that the current situation requires.


The document “Communication Investing in Europe's Youth” is at:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=COM:2016:940:FIN / Brussels, 7.12.2016 COM(2016) 940 final).   

The communication is built on the European Council decision (December 2016), which envisioned an ambitious set of “ youth oackage” initiatives along the three strands of EU actions:

1.      Better opportunities to access employment: The initiative is aimed at full and sustainable implementation of the Youth Guarantee in the member states, supported by the European Semester that drives reforms at a national level. To facilitate the roll-out of the Youth Guarantee, the Commission has proposed to supplement the original allocation of the Youth Employment Initiative by € 1 billion until 2020.

2.      Better opportunities through education and training: This objective will be achieved by facilitating the cooperation between the states and supporting their efforts to reform education and training systems. The Commission is especially committed to create better conditions for apprentices by proposing a Quality Framework for Apprenticeships, supporting EU states in establishing modern apprenticeship systems and introducing the new long-term mobility strand for apprentices “ErasmusPro” in the Erasmus+ programme.

3.      Better opportunities for solidarity, learning mobility and participation: In this context, the Commission has proposed an increase of € 200 million in Erasmus+ budget until 2020. In order to encourage participation of young people in society and solidarity work, the Commission will revise the European Youth Strategy and set up a European Solidarity Corps.

Source: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=950&langId=en

EU-member states’ actions

Within the youth unemployment the following actions are poerformed in accord by the EU institutions and the member states:

= Combating youth unemployment remains a top priority for the EU and the states. Promoting employment is a matter of common concern, shared by all EU states. The European Union lends its support to the states through a range of policies and action, and through dedicated financial means. Under the European Semester of economic policy coordination, the EU is offering policy advice and guidance to EU states on promoting structural reforms which facilitate the integration of young people into the world of work. This guidance is given in the form of country-specific recommendations (CSRs). They are issued in the context of the EU-level policy coordination in the fields of fiscal, economic and employment policies under the "European Semester". Key focus areas during last years in the European Semester were active labour market policies, early school-leaving, better access to education and training to vulnerable groups, the relevance of education for labour market needs, work-based learning and apprenticeships and targeted support to young people who are not in employment, education or training. The financial support given by the EU Structural and Investment Funds is aligned with this policy guidance.

= Investing in skills, competences and the integration into the labour market as skills and competences are a key investment. In the knowledge-based economy, a broad set of skills and competences is indispensable. Investing in them helps facilitate the transition to work, prevent youth unemployment and sustain innovation, competitiveness and social fairness. Education systems need to achieve better results, i.e. good learning outcomes for all pupils, notably those from a disadvantaged background. Particular emphasis needs to be put on improving performance by increasing efficiency and on the quality of teaching. Better teaching is a key factor for improving both quality and efficiency.

= Offering cross-border opportunities and increasing youth participation. Learning, studying and training in another country provides a unique experience and opens up new horizons. Europe's economies are highly inter-linked. Offering young people the opportunity to broaden their horizon helps them to become more autonomous and self-confident. It is a way to acquire new skills and knowledge, and it provides a unique experience, as it holds lessons about how to deal with diversity and to cope within a different environment.

In the abovementioned “Investing in Europe’s Youth” communication Latvian experience was mentioned:


Practical example on the concrete impact of the Youth Guarantee/Youth Employment Initiative is seen in Latvia: the “Know and Do” project, which started in 2015 with assistance from the European Social Fund. It supports outreach work at the municipal level, aims to identify, motivate and activate non-registered young people aged 15-29 to return to education, employment or training. 

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