Education and Science, EU – Baltic States, Latvia, Modern EU

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Wednesday, 27.05.2020, 06:35

European dimension in education: perspectives for Latvia

Eugene Eteris, European Studies Faculty, RSU, BC International Editor, Copenhagen, 15.03.2019.Print version
Progressive education is a vital instrument in predicting future growth and formulating a sound public policy. Modern national governance is facing several challenges, which are already generally changing traditional approaches to labour markets, university’s education and new digital economy’s applications. Besides, sustainability and circular economy issues form a new trend in education and training.

The European Commission supports the EU states in ensuring that their education systems deliver. Recent analysis in EU's annual publication on education and training is an important part of this work. Citizenship education is the main focus of the 2018 report, reflecting the role of education in fostering engagement, inclusion and an understanding of citizens' rights. Using a range of examples, the Monitor finds that the EU states are working to ensure that young people learn how our democracies and institutions work and about the values the European Union is built on. The 2018-monitor also shows that the states have made further progress towards the targets for reforming and modernising education systems the EU set itself for 2020 – reaching or getting very close to some of them.


The Commission’s policy in education, culture, youth and sport has a supplementary competence to the member states’ policies. Though, the Commission is closely watching the member states’ efforts in meeting the European targets for 2020 agreed by the states, e.g. to enable young people to become engaged communities’ members. The Commission given fresh impetus to this goal: in the beginning of 2018, the states adopted a recommendation on promoting European shared values in inclusive education and the European dimension of teaching. The EU institutions mainly help stimulating investment and support policy priorities in education.

European-2018 Education and Training Monitor

The 2018 edition of the European Commission's Education and Training Monitor, finds that the EU states have made further progress towards the EU's targets set for 2020. The 2018 Monitor is the seventh edition of this annual report that shows how the EU's education and training systems are evolving by bringing together a wide array of evidence. It measures the EU's progress in the “EU’s education and training-2020” targets. The analysis of education challenges and trends recorded in the Monitor helps to inform the treatment of education issues in the annual European Semester process. Furthermore, it will help to identify where EU funding for education, training and skills should be targeted in the EU's next long-term budget.


The EU targets in:


The 2018-Education and Training Monitor shows the states’ progress and differences among countries with the needed reforms, e.g. in basic skills, where bigger efforts are required to ensure young people’s abilities to read, write and do maths properly to become active and responsible citizens. Thus, the share of pupils dropping out of school without a diploma fell to 10.6% in 2017, very close to the objective of less than 10% by 2020. This, nevertheless, still means that more than one in ten pupils faces difficult prospects for further education or for a solid entry into the labour market with fewer opportunities available for adult learning.


The percentage of those completing tertiary education rose to 39.9%, almost reaching the goal of 40% agreed on for 2020. And already more than 95% of children aged four or older participated in early childhood education and care, slightly more than the target of at least 95%.


The Monitor also looks at how much the EU states spend on education, which is an important investment in economic and social development. In 2016, public funding for education rose by 0.5% in real terms compared to the previous year. However, many states are still investing less in education than they did before the economic crisis, and thirteen EU states actually spent less, including the Baltic States.


EU education policy for 2020

There are eight EU’s benchmarks defined for the states’ policies facing 2020:

  • An average of at least 15 % of adults should participate in lifelong learning.
  • The share of low-achieving 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science should be less than 15 %.
  • The share of 30-34 year-olds with tertiary educational attainment should be at least 40 %.
  • The share of early leavers from education and training should be less than 10 %.
  • At least 95 % of children between 4 years old and the age for starting compulsory primary education should participate in early childhood education.
  • The share of employed graduates (20-34 year-olds) having left education and training 1-3 years before the reference year should be at least 82 %.
  • An EU average of at least 20 % of higher education graduates should have had a period of higher education-related study or training (including work placements) abroad, representing a minimum of 15 ECTS credits or lasting a minimum of three months.
  • An EU average of at least 6 % of 18-34 year-olds with an initial vocational education and training (IVET) qualification should have had an IVET-related study or training period (including work placements) abroad lasting a minimum of two weeks, or less if documented by Europass.


See targets in: 


The Monitor analyses the main challenges for European education systems and presents policies that can make them more responsive to societal and labour market needs. The report comprises a cross-country comparison, 28 in-depth country reports, and a webpage with additional data and information.


Education is high on the EU’s political agenda: the Commission is working full speed with the states towards building a European education area by 2025, which is about enhancing learning, cooperation and excellence. It is also about opening up opportunities for all, strengthening values and enabling young people to develop a European identity. The reforms encouraged by the EU-2018 education and training monitor underpins the strengthened ambition in this area, with the Commission’s role in proposed measures to significantly boost funding for young people and learning in the EU's next long-term budget.


On European education area in:

Possible scenarios

Future very hard to predict and makes it very difficult to make public policy: present governments are in a difficult historic moment - unlike any other in history – indicating the end of the “theoretical principle of the infinite substitution of labour capital” with the arrival of robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and digitalisation. All these features are going to transform traditional labour processes in factories and businesses, offices and university’s research. 

According to one scenario, the huge gearing up for ‘intelligent capitalism’ in manufacturing and services promises the disappearance of labour as a factor of production; that theory is advocating the skills and jobs’ disappearance, i.e. “joblessness”. Another scenario (a “hybrid” one) argues that we can change the future and we should go for augmented intelligence rather than autonomous learning systems. That will provide a hybrid model with human beings firmly in control. Still, the third scenario (a “normal” one) states that it is business as usual and that AI and intelligent systems are just another tech-hype discourse that will erode, but also create, new skills and jobs. 

All three scenarios are based on models of change, but the first two recognise that there is something at work that is different from old linear industrial processes of scale and assembly. 

More in:


If either the first or second scenarios are more likely to be correct, the states are facing serious problems, in particular in the Baltic States that during last three decades were building capital/labour duality: parliamentary democracy representing some dominant political parties and new mechanisms of “tripartite-negotiations” reflecting businesses, trade unions the government.


Thus, the 2018 OECD Automation Policy Brief confirms that 14% of jobs are automatable and another 32% will face substantial change in how they are carried out; young people will find it harder to enter the labour market and, while jobs in manufacturing and agriculture face greater risk of automation, others are not immune to change. The greatest risk is to low-skill routine jobs, although education and training will not offset the risks of automation.

The ‘joblessness’ scenario is a frightening one, especially for young people who will increasingly find growing competition for a decreasing pool of available jobs with higher entry qualifications and conditions, and lower wages. The future of work in this scenario looks bleak even if we admit that the process is not one of the simple elimination of jobs through increasingly sophisticated automation and the application of intelligent systems to the world of work. 


It is not clear what function education will serve in the era of final automation once the vocational justification for it is removed. Indeed, as a thought experiment it is useful to contemplate the question: what is the purpose and function of higher education in the age of final automation once labour as a set of processes and as a political category has disappeared?


In the book on comparative Baltic States’ policies*), there is an accessible and balanced analysis of the political development during the process of gaining re-independence in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in August 1991. The author considers regional political history while focusing on the different constitutional and institutional choices made by Baltic leaders in the early 1990s.


Auers compares constitutions, parliaments and executives as well as local governments, courts, bureaucracies and domestic security services. He analyses political parties and electoral systems, as well as the comparative civil society’s development, the impact of corruption and politically latent ethnic tensions between Russophobe communities in Estonia and Latvia.


The book also addresses economic, social and welfare developments in the Baltic States in connection with their common and crucial pursuit for external security.


*) See more in: Auers, Daniel. Comparative politics and government of the Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the 21st century. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. -

 ISBN 978-1-137-36996-3.   


For more information in the following web-links: the Erasmus+ programme; European Structural and Investment Funds, including the Youth Employment Initiative; European Solidarity Corps, as well as Horizon 2020, and European Institute of Innovation and Technology

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