Education_big (2)Youth unemployment is growing dramatically in Europe. Eurostat figures show 5.5 million under-25s are looking for work. Meanwhile, it’s estimated there are 4 million unfilled job vacancies across the EU. Does Europe need to re-think its education to ensure young people have the right skills to fit the jobs that are out there? Also at a time when the crisis is reviving old divisions, should educators be doing more to develop understanding of Europe’s cultures and values? Is it really the right time to cut funding for the Erasmus program which has successfully supported university exchanges for thousands of students around Europe?

At last week’s State of Europe roundtable organised by Friends of Europe, we put questions from Debating Europe commenters to the education ministers of Estonia and Slovenia. Flavii from Italy wanted a response to his view that:

Education, especially for new generations, is the key to reach a cultural union and a deep understanding of Europe’s common values.

Here’s the reply from Jaak Aaviksoo, Estonia’s Minister of Education and Research:

Jaak Aaviksoo agreed Education is key to developing a better understanding of cultures across Europe and said the Erasmus programme was essential. In Estonia less than 10 percent of young people spend a year or more studying outside their homeland. Aaviksoo wants that to rise to at least 30 percent, saying those exchanges will give a boost to European unity.

Debating Europe commenter Peter from Belgium says that a new education and formation system must enable poor people to participate in society.

Investment in innovation can result in sustaining prosperity without growth.

Here are the thoughts of Ziga Turk, Slovenia’s Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports:

Ziga Turk’s response is that investment and education need to be refocused to encourage innovative new ideas and original start-up companies rather that trying to keep old industries afloat. If not, investment risks destroying more jobs than in creates.

What do YOU think? In this time of tightening education budgets? Can Erasmus escape the cuts? Is Europe’s education system outdated and unable to keep pace with a world of fast-moving innovation? What incentive is there for young people to continue education when they have little hope of finding a job? How can education foster understanding across Europe’s borders? Let us know your thoughts in the form below and we’ll take your comments to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – scui3asteveo

8 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Well I really hope that they do not abandon this great project and allow any fund cuts to be passed on to it. In my opinion it is one of the greatest achievements that this continent managed to achieve, after the creation of the EU itself of course. And it is not just good for education or accumulation of knowledge, or even to have some fun while studying in another country.

    To me the Erasmus program is a great opportunity to create more “Newropeans” in our continent, young people with a more broad knowledge and conscience. With a more “European” mind frame. For many of the students this opportunity is perhaps the first or the only one they could get to travel and live abroad. And as with Erasmus himself, that gives them an opportunity to gain new insights and knowledge first of all, but mainly to come in contact with many other students from all over Europe. Exchange ideas, knowledge, get in touch with other cultures. Perhaps learn a new language and a new way of life.

    By living in another country you get to know how the people of this country live and think. And by living together with many other students from other European nations you automatically become a cosmopolitan person. You stop having a narrow, national only and perhaps conservative way of thinking and of course you take all the experience you gain back in your own country. And if we really want to create a European community and a multicultural society, that is the best tool and way of doing it.

    What better way to give this opportunity to our young generations, to be not more cosmopolitan, educated, experienced, multilingual and progressive, but also have a love for Europe as whole. If we are going to change our continent we need to start from the young generation and invest in them, they are the future. They hold the key for a new kind of society in our continent. We need to give them the tools and the stimulus to be this new generation of Europeans.

    So why are we giving all our tax money to the Banks, and wasting our resources in maintaining the current economic and political status quo? While we should be investing in our young people and provide them with all the tools necessary for a new Europe. Why are we bowing to the orders of the Banks and the Markets, giving more money and power to the rich elites, while it is our youth who need our attention and they are by far a better investment for the future?

    Because with an educated, creative, experienced, multilingual and with a more European frame of mind or open minded future workforce, we have a chance to gain an advantage against our competitors form other regions. That is how you conquer the global markets, not by bailing out your banks! We do not want to live in a Banker’s world. We want to provide our youth the tools to spread their wings and fly, and with them, Europe will fly too!

    A part of my blog-post on the Erasmus and its future.. I think it kinda says it all…

  2. avatar

    My personal experience is that I could not find a job so I continued to study. Now, I had a job interview two days ago and I was told that my CV is “intimidating”, and that I know “too much”. So with studies or without studies, we are screwed…

  3. avatar
    Zoétán Jenei

    sajnos ma a magyar fiataloknak tbbsgben klfldre kell menik ha jogot vagy filozofit akarnak tanulni mert magyarorszgon ezen egyetemi szakokat megszntetk ugyanez vonatkozik a kzgazdsz szakra is

  4. avatar
    Nikolai Holmov

    If there is going to be a genuine look at education then the very fundamentals must be questioned.

    What is the education system designed to do?

    Ultimately the education system seems designed to create professors through what has now become a system hijacked by academic inflation for no reason other than educational institution economic interests.

    Where once many jobs did not and still do not warrant a degree to do them, one is now required. Where a degree was once the benchmark for some jobs, an MA is now required. Where an MA was required now a Doctorate is necessary – and for no good reason considering most of the job roles and specifications have not really changed.

    Thus academic inflation has set in for no apparently good reason other than to keep people in the system as long as possible and churn out either people far too highly qualified for the jobs that exist in their academic strata, or people to lowly qualified for jobs they are more than capable of doing and of doing exceptionally well.

    When encouraging people to stay in higher education, we have to ask, is there any need for 60,000 Business Management degree holders (random but necessarily high number) a year when we are not attracting enough people into sciences to fulfill the needs of society?

    The sheer number of business management degree holders (and similar) makes that degree completely useless – I know as one of two degrees I hold is business management. The other is civil engineering and has been much more use in life.

    Thus you can only assume that universities churn out degrees like business management in such huge numbers for the revenue it brings them rather than for the benefit of society at large or the students – who will find themselves one of an incredibly large number of people holding the same degree – to a point whereby it so commonplace that certainly doesn’t excite any prospective employer or give them any advantage in getting even an average job.

    Of course that does not apply to all degrees. As I have said, my civil engineering degree has served me very well. As I presume will degrees in dentistry, veterinarians etc – because they are not that popular and thus there is still a demand for such degree holders compared to business management (as an example).

    So aside from academic inflation, questioning what ultimately our education system sets out to do with the people within it, we must also ask how honest it is with those that study certain degrees when it comes to the end results of their studies.

    How do we encourage people to study what will not only provide a career that will have a very good chance of employment upon qualification but will actually address the needs of society during their working lifetime to the point the will always be in demand.

    Alternatively how do you dissuade people from taking a degree that will give them absolutely no advantage once they hold it and be of no benefit to society either?

    It brings us back to what education is ultimately for and who actually benefits from it.

    In the meantime I need to call a plumber, who does not need a degree, but will be in demand all their life and be far more useful to me than somebody like me with a business management degree.

  5. avatar
    Hester Jansen

    The question “What role can education play in easing Europe’s crisis”, is a pressing one.

    Unfortunately the question has evoked very little debate in the European Parliament.

    When discussing ‘Erasmus for all’ the CULT-committee preferred an extensive debate on whether ‘Erasmus’ is an apt name for the mobility-programme (!). So much for sense of urgency in the EP.

  6. avatar
    Peter Schellinck

    As suggested before, make the internal market truly open and billions € will be freed up. With these funds we could finance the SME’s and give the civil servants who wish to leave a starters pack to join the SME’s. At the same time cut the military costs and consolidate all national fancy armies into a EuroNato. Use the freed up money for education, which is the most secured investment in the future. Allow the industry to close a partnership charter with the schools to come up with a job for degree guarantee. Only 2 out of 5 current jobs actually have a curriculum, which shows that degrees are molded in the workshop. If 1 out of 2 SME’s would employ a newcomer, Europe would have no unemployment.

  7. avatar
    Palma Muñoz Morquilla

    First of all I´d like to remember that spending public money on Education is not really an expense but an investment and especially at this time of severe economic crisis, investing in Education it is a “Must”. I believe is not responsible for Governments to cut their budgets in Education for the sake of an austerity policy to contain the public deficit, that it is choking citizens, ruining their present and what is worse robbing their future.
    Unfortunately this is what is going on in some countries of the EU and even at the level of the EU budget, not to mention the financing problem of the iconic ERASMUS Program last year –paradoxically its 25th anniversary-.
    In Spain, the youth unemployment rate is dramatic and has already reached 57.6%. The situation is difficult for all youngsters in general but at least young people with good training and language skills have the option of going to work abroad, meanwhile the recession in Spain persist. But what future can expect young people without training skills? This situation is provoking a “brain drain”, which produces a decapitalization of the country because, not only we are losing valuable talents, but also the country is not receiving the return of the investment in education made.
    To break this vicious circle it appears as a “Must” the creation of the conditions to create new employments for youngsters.
    Young people is our present and our Future, they are our HOPE. What is Europe doing to solve this?

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