This year's edition of the Commission's Education and Training Monitor shows progress towards important EU targets, but also highlights that Member States need to make their education systems more relevant and inclusive, in particular regarding the integration of newly arrived refugees and migrants. Member States face a dual task of ensuring adequate financial investment and offering high quality education to young people from all backgrounds – including refugees and migrants.
In the field of Education and Training, the Maltese Presidency will focu on the relevance of achieving a High Quality Education for All through inclusion in diversity. The quality and relevance of Education and Training should be linked to the requirements of the labour market and directed towards the provision of relevant skills, aptitudes and lifelong values required to become active citizens.
The Maltese Presidency will also strive to make progress on the New Skills Agenda for Europe, the proposal for a Council Recommendation on the European Qualifications Framework, and the proposal for a Decision on Europass.
On 10 June 2016, the European Commission has adopted a new and comprehensive Skills Agenda for Europe.
The aim of the Skills Agenda is to improve the teaching and recognition of skills – from basic to higher skills, as well as transversal and civic skills – and to boost employability. It also aims to ensure that no-one is left behind and that Europe nurtures the high-end skills that drive competitiveness and innovation. The Skills Agenda contributes to the European Commissions’ first political priority ‘A new boost for jobs, growth and investment’. Ten actions are proposed, grouped around three strands.
The Programme of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union is based on four priorities: an economically strong Europe, a modern single market, a sustainable migration and asylum policies and a globally engaged Europe.
The priority themes which will be at the forefront of the Slovak Presidency are driven by three interconnected principles: Achieving tangible results; overcoming fragmentation; focusing on the citizen.
In the field of education, the main focus is on fostering and developing talent, translating into increased competitiveness, enhanced social inclusion and the personal development of every individual.
On 31 May 2016, the Council for Education, Youth, Culture and Sports of the EU adopted conclusions on developing media literacy and critical thinking through education and training.
The conclusions stress the fundamental role of education and training in helping young people to become media-literate and responsible citizens of the future.
The conclusions are also a follow-up to the Paris declaration of March 2015 which highlights the key role that education has to play in promoting citizenship and the Union's fundamental values. Ministers agreed that one of the areas in need of strengthening was young people's ability to think critically and to exercise judgement so that they were able to grasp realities, to distinguish fact from opinion, and to resist all forms of indoctrination and hate speech.
The Netherlands holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from 1 January to 30 June 2016 and has presented, together with the Slovak and Maltese Presidencies that will follow, the Council's work programme for the period to June 2017.
The EU Presidency Trio states in its programme that ‘inclusive, smart and sustainable growth, jobs and competitiveness remain the top priority over the next 18 months.’
The conclusions take stock of the progress made so far, with a view to reviewing, consolidating and improving measures. According to 2014 data, 11.1 % of 18 to 24 year olds have left education and training without completing an upper secondary programme (around 4.4 million young people). Huge discrepancies remain within and between member states and the comprehensive strategies advocated in the 2011 Council Recommendation are still lacking in many countries.