Brussels, 21 Nov 2002
Responding to the challenges set by the Lisbon European Council of making Europe the most competitive and dynamic knowledge based economy in the world by 2010, the European Commission, together with the EU Member States, has proposed five European benchmarks for education and training.
'All member states have now agreed on joint objectives for the education and training systems and on the use of the open method of coordination to measure progress towards their achievement. The five benchmarks proposed by the Commission will contribute to measure better the progress made and to support the exchange of best practices and peer-reviews in order to reach the 2010 target,' said European Commissioner for Education and Culture, Viviane Reding.
The aim behind the benchmarking is to ensure that by 2010, all Member States will have at least halved the level of gender imbalance among graduates in mathematics, science and technology, whilst securing an overall significant increase in the total number of graduates compared to the year 2000. The European Union produces more graduates in mathematics, science and technology (about 550,000 per year), in comparison with the USA (370,000) and Japan (240,000), but significantly fewer go into research careers.
There is a huge disparity between Member States regarding the ratio of graduates in these areas. The Commission claims that efforts should be made throughout the education systems to motivate girls in particular to choose scientific/technological subjects throughout initial, upper secondary and higher education. The three best performing countries in this area are Ireland, Portugal and Italy, with a ration of male/female graduates in mathematics, science and technology of 1.6/1, whereas this ratio is of 4.7/1 in the Netherlands.
It is also hoped, that the percentage of low achieving 15 year olds in reading, mathematical and scientific literacy will be at least halved in each Member State by 2010.
Other targets include a 50 per cent reduction in the rate of early school leavers, ensuring 80 per cent of 25 to 59 years olds in the EU have at least upper secondary education and that at least 15 per cent of the adult population participates in lifelong learning.
Finally, the Commission is inviting Member States to continue to contribute to the achievement of the Lisbon objective of substantial annual increases in per capita investments in human resources, and, in this respect, to set national benchmarks to be communicated to the Council and Commission. In most OECD countries public expenditures on education grew by over five per cent during the period 1995 to 1999. The EU-average percentage of GDP going to public expenditures for education is of 5 per cent, with the three best performing EU countries (Sweden, Finland, France) scoring an average of 7.4 per cent.