‘Delivering lifelong learning for knowledge, creativity and innovation’ : Draft 2008 joint progress report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the ‘Education & Training 2010’ work programme.

Education and training are crucial to economic and social change. The flexibility and security needed to achieve more and better jobs depend on ensuring that all citizens acquire key competences and update their skills throughout their lives.1 Lifelong learning supports creativity and innovation and enables full economic and social participation.
That is why the Council set itself ambitious objectives in the Education and Training 2010 work programme. In turn, these support the achievement of the Lisbon guidelines for jobs and growth. These objectives can only be achieved by sustained long term effort. Inevitably, progress will be uneven. It is to identify achievements and to direct effort to areas that are proving more difficult that the Council and the Commission prepare a joint report every second year. This contribution to the 3rd Joint Report2 points to significant progress and challenges in education and training reforms. The following areas will need particular effort:
• Raising skill levels. People with low skill levels are at risk of economic and social exclusion. Continued high levels of early school leaving, low participation in lifelong learning by older workers and the low-skilled, and poor skill achievement among migrants cause concern in most countries. Further, future labour markets in a knowledge-based economy will demand ever higher skill levels from a shrinking work force. Low skills will become an ever greater challenge;
Lifelong learning strategies. Most countries have made progress in defining unified and overarching strategies. Within such frameworks, progress is evident in pre-primary education, qualification frameworks and the validation of non-formal and informal learning. However, innovative learning partnerships and sustainable funding for high quality, efficient and equitable education and training3 still elude many countries, the more so as the growth of investment appears to have slowed. Particular attention must also be given to lifelong guidance. Ensuring that reforms are effectively implemented is an important challenge to all;
• The knowledge triangle (education, research and innovation). The knowledge triangle plays a key role in boosting jobs and growth. So it is so important to accelerate reform,
to promote excellence in higher education and university-business partnerships and to ensure that all sectors of education and training play their full role in promoting creativity and innovation.

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