Select Committee on European Scrutiny Sixteenth Report

4 Education and training: indicators and benchmarks



COM(07) 61

Commission Communication: A coherent framework of indicators and benchmarks for monitoring progress towards the Lisbon objectives in education and training

Legal base
Document originated21 February 2007
Deposited in Parliament27 February 2007
DepartmentEducation and Skills
Basis of considerationEM of 20 March
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilMay
Committee's assessmentLegally and politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information requested

The Lisbon targets for education and training

4.1 In March 2000, the European Council set the objective for Europe to become the world's most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy by 2010.[8] It also called on the Member States, the Council of Ministers and the Commission to meet the following targets:

  • make "a substantial increase in per capita investment in human resources";
  • halve the number of people aged 18 to 24 who have had only a lower-secondary level education and who are not receiving further education and training;
  • develop schools and training centres into "multi-purpose learning centres accessible to all";
  • establish learning partnerships between schools, training centres, firms and research organisations;
  • define the basic skills — IT, foreign languages, technological, cultural, entrepreneurial and social — to be provided through lifelong learning;
  • establish a European diploma in basic IT skills;
  • foster the mobility of students, teachers and research workers; and
  • develop a common European format for CVs.[9]

The current benchmarks and indicators

4.2 In 2003, the Education Council set the following five "benchmarks" or targets for 2010:

  • the number of children who leave school prematurely should be reduced to no more than 10%;
  • the number of children who are low achievers in reading should be cut by at least 20%;
  • at least 85% of children should complete upper-secondary education;
  • the number of graduates in mathematics, science and technology should be increased by at least 15% and the imbalance between women and men graduates in those subjects should be reduced; and
  • 12.5% of the adult population should take part in lifelong learning.

4.3 In 2004, the Education Ministers of the Member States adopted common objectives for education and training and a work programme to give effect to them (the "Education and Training 2010 Programme").

4.4 Between 2003-06, a list of 29 indicators was used to monitor progress towards the achievement of the Lisbon targets.

Legal background

4.5 Article 3(1)(q) of the EC Treaty cites "a contribution to education and training of quality" as one of the activities required for the purposes of the Community's task as defined in Article 2.

4.6 Article 5 of the EC Treaty provides that the Community must act within the powers conferred upon it by the Treaty and that any action by the Community must not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the Treaty's objectives.

4.7 Article 149(1) of the EC Treaty provides that the Community is to contribute to the development of "quality education" by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action. Article 149(2) then goes on to specify that Community action should be aimed at:

  • "developing the European dimension in education, particularly through the teaching and dissemination of the languages of the Member States;
  • encouraging mobility of students and teachers, by encouraging inter alia, the academic recognition of diplomas and periods of study;
  • promoting cooperation between educational establishments;
  • developing exchanges of information and experience on issues common to the education systems of the Member States;
  • encouraging the development of youth exchanges and of exchanges of socioeducational instructors; and
  • encouraging the development of distance learning."

4.8 Article 150(1) of the EC Treaty requires the Community to implement a vocational training policy to support and supplement the action of the Member States. Article 150(2) specifies what Community action on vocational training should be aimed at.

The document

4.9 In 2005, the Council asked the Commission to assess progress towards the establishment of a coherent framework of indicators. This Communication contains the Commission's response.

4.10 The Commission says that:

    "There is now a need to identify a new framework which fully reflects the political priorities of the Education and Training 2010 Programme as it has developed."[10]

4.11 The Commission proposes a new list of 20 "core indicators". They are:

i)  Participation in pre-school education.

ii)  Special needs education.

iii)  Early school leavers.

iv)  Literacy in reading, mathematics and science.

v)  Language skills.

vi)  ICT skills.

vii)  Civic skills.

viii)  Learning to learn skills.

ix)  Upper secondary completion rates of young people.

x)  School management.

xi)  Schools as multi-purpose local learning centres.

xii)  Professional development of teachers and trainers.

xiii)  Stratification of education and training systems.

xiv)  Higher education graduates.

xv)  Cross-national mobility of students in higher education.

xvi)  Participation of adults in lifelong learning.

xvii)  Adults' skills.

xviii)  Educational attainment of the population.

xix)  Investment in education and training.

xx)  Returns to education and training.

The nine core indicators shown in italics are among the 29 used to monitor progress between 2003-06. The Commission says that the other eleven indicators are still being developed.

4.12 The Commission:

  • invites the Council to endorse the proposed list of 20 core indicators and support the development of the new ones;
  • invites Member States to take part in the development of the new indicators and help ensure the success of the surveys to collect the data;
  • intends to report to the Council in 2008 on the development and implementation of the new indicators; and
  • intends to "launch work in cooperation with Member States on the feasibility of defining a EU benchmark on devoting at least 2% of GDP to a modernised higher education sector by 2015".[11]

The Government's view

4.13 The Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education at the Department for Education and Skills (Bill Rammell) tells us that the Government can support nine of the indicators proposed in the Communication (the nine which were used to monitor progress in 2003-06). Details about the 11 new indicators are not yet available. The Government needs to know the details and will not agree to the new indicators until it has much more information about them.

4.14 In the Government's view, the Council should decide any proposals the Commission has for collecting the data required for the indicators. In particular, the Government will stress the need to minimise the work for schools in collecting data required for the proposed indicators of foreign languages and learning to learn. Member States must be free to choose the time of year to administer tests for the purposes of the EC indicators so as to avoid clashes with assessments needed for domestic purposes.

4.15 The Minister expresses particular concern about the Commission's intention to begin work on the feasibility of an EU benchmark for at least 2% of GDP to be allocated to higher education by 2015. He says:

    "Our argument has been that the focus should be on improving outcomes (such as degree completion rates and the quality of graduate job prospects) rather than on raising financial inputs. Further, it is for individual countries to decide their spending priorities. We do not propose to agree to the 2% benchmark."


4.16 We are grateful to the Minister for his clear and robust explanation of the Government's view of the Commission's proposals. We understand why the Government considers it essential to know in detail about the proposed new indicators before it consents to them and why it emphasises the importance of minimising the burden on schools of collecting data for the indicators.

4.17 We share the Government's concern about the Commission's proposal for work on the feasibility of an EC benchmark for each Member State to allocate 2% of its GDP to higher education. In our view, the Commission has not shown that such a benchmark is necessary to attain a Community objective; consequently the proposal is inconsistent with Article 5 of the EC Treaty. Moreover, in our view, the proposed benchmark goes beyond the Community action specified in Article 149(2). We welcome the Government's intention to dissent from the proposal.

4.18 We ask the Minister to provide us with progress reports on the Council's discussion of the Communication. Meanwhile, we shall keep the document under scrutiny.

8   Lisbon European Council, 23-24 March 2000, Presidency Conclusions, paragraph 5. Back

9   Ibid, paragraph 26. Back

10   Commission Communication, page 3, final paragraph. Back

11   Commission Communication, page 12, final sub-paragraph. Back

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