Magazine article Techniques

The European Union: Supporting Technical and Vocational Education

Magazine article Techniques

The European Union: Supporting Technical and Vocational Education

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU) HAS PUT IN PLACE POLICIES AND PROGRAMS TO SUPPORT TECHNICAL AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION TRAINING (TVET) (1) in order to enhance economic and social development and employment inside the EU. An EU report on the 2010 objectives for education and training found that progress has been made in a number of areas such as qualification systems, pre-primary education, and the integration of education and training policies and programs into national reform efforts. The report found that more progress needs to be made, however, in other areas, including increasing skill levels, improving teacher training, increasing education spending and fostering lifelong learning.

Structure of the EU

The EU currently is a group of 27 democratic countries working together on economic, commercial, employment, social, environmental, .judicial, and security issues. The EU is governed by three main institutions: the European Parliament which represents people, the Council of the EU which represents national governments, and the European Commission which represents the common EU interests and administers EU policies. The EU currently has a population of 500 million, creating an attractive business market without internal trade barriers. European companies, with their enhanced size due to expansion across Europe, have also set their sights across the Atlantic to the Americas. To facilitate trade within this single market, European leaders created a single currency to eliminate foreign-exchange hurdles encountered by companies doing business across European borders. The European Union introduced the currency, the Euro in January 1999. As of January 2009, 16 countries are part of the Euro Area.

EU Departments and Organizations that Support TVET

The two Directorate Generals (DGs) at the European Commission (EC) that have broad responsibilities for TVET in the EU arc the DG Education and Culture, and the DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. In addition, there are two key agencies chartered by the EU that specifically support the development of TVET, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training which supports TVET development in EU member states, and the European Training Foundation (ETF) in non-member countries.

DG Education reinforces and promotes lifelong learning, linguistic and cultural diversity, mobility and the engagement of European citizens in particular the young. The work of DG Education supports the following thematic areas: education, youth, culture, multilingual ism, citizenship and sport. Under the EU treaty policies regarding education and culture are the prerogative of individual member countries. The EC cannot dictate education policies for member states, but only develop consensus among members, and provide resources to stimulate agreed polices. This is not dissimilar to policies in Canada, or to a lesser extent in the United States, where education policies are the primary prerogative of provinces and states.

DG Employment works toward the creation of more and better jobs, an inclusive society, and equal opportunities for all. The main themes are: creating more and better jobs through the European Employment Strategy and the European Social Fund (which provides nine billion Euros per year managed in partnership with the member states); supporting the free movement of workers and coordinating social security schemes between member countries; promoting better working conditions through common minimum standards in the workplace; supporting social dialogue at the European level, and modernizing labor relations; supporting social inclusion and non-discrimination by reform of social protection systems, assessing demographic and social developments; and promoting fundamental rights and enhancing the integration of disabled people. It also aims to support equality between men and women through legislation and ensuring that the gender issue is taken into account in all fields of community action. …

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