EUROPEAN COMMISSION DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR EDUCATION AND CULTURE

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1 EUROPEAN COMMISSION DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR EDUCATION AND CULTURE DGVT Meeting in Ireland May 2013 Agenda item II Document 3 OMC THEMATIC WORKING GROUPS IN EDUCATION AND TRAINING Education Ministers have recently stated very clearly their determination to play a more prominent role, and to enhance the overall role of education, in the implementation of the European Semester, notably in the Council Conclusions of February 15 th, 2013 on Education, the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Annual Growth Survey 1. This document aims to take forward the work on optimising the functioning of the OMC Thematic Working Groups (TWGs) in Education and Training. The proposals are inspired by the constructive discussion on this topic during the High Level Group on Education and Training (HLG E&T) in Dublin in December The proposals are intended as a basis of discussion and feedback during the DG VT, Schools and Higher Education meetings, with a view of coming to conclusions at the HLG E&T in June. TWGs in Education and Training should be at the service of Member States to help them modernise their education and training systems in the framework of priorities commonly agreed at European level. In this context, it is proposed to concentrate on: - The need for adjusting the focus and working methods of the TWGs to ensure that they play a key role in driving forward the implementation of the priorities set out in Europe 2020, the European Semester (in particular the Country Specific Recommendations - CSRs) and ET The need to improve OMC governance and Member State ownership of the OMC process, notably through a more active involvement of the HLG E&T and the DG meetings VT, Schools, and Higher Education and a more regular feedback/communication between the TWGs and the high-level decision-makers. 1. REVIEWING THE TWGS IN LIGHT OF THE REFOCUSED POLICY PRIORITIES The current TWGs were largely conceived at the start of ET 2020 (adopted in 2009), supporting also the Bologna and Copenhagen processes. Since then, the unprecedented economic crisis and the EU's strategic policy response have transformed the political and institutional context. In 2010, driven by need to boost employment, productivity and 1 See: Commission européenne/europese Commissie, 1049 Bruxelles/Brussel, BELGIQUE/BELGIË - Tel

2 social cohesion, the EU adopted the Europe 2020 growth strategy. In 2011, the European Semester process was launched (see the document "Education and Training within the Europe 2020 Strategy"). In the specific field of education and training, priorities have been refocused through adoption of several new Commission and Council documents. 2 In this new context, the further optimising of the OMC TWGs is indispensable for the following reasons: (a) Crisis, slow growth, EU productivity prospects relative to other developed and emerging economies, high unemployment rates and the skills mismatch have made education reform at the same time more necessary and more difficult than just 5 years ago; (b) Europe 2020 and - more importantly - all Member States have identified education and training as essential to address the challenges of globalisation and the knowledge economy; (c) Technology is having an increasingly important impact both on education systems and on learning; and (d) Neither the Member States, nor the Commission have the time or resources to devote to non-essential challenges. In order to fully exploit the potential contribution of the TWGs to the national and EU agenda and policy processes, to ensure a better oversight of the activities of the TWGs (as requested by Council and HLG E&T), and to respond to the human resource constraints faced both by the Commission and most Member State administrations, it is proposed to rationalise the number of TWGs and ensure a better matching between their activities and the refocused European cooperation priorities in education and training. The key priorities that TWGs should cover include: - Europe 2020, including the headline targets on Early School Leaving and completion of Higher Education; - Rethinking Education priorities as agreed by the Council in February 2013 in key areas such as excellence in Vocational Education and Training (apprenticeships work-based learning), Adult Learning (reducing the number of low-skilled adults), Transversal Skills (such as ICT and entrepreneurial skills), Opening up Education, and strengthening the professional profile of the Teaching Profession; - Modernising Europe's Higher Education systems. To reply to these priorities, it is proposed that starting in the 2 nd half of 2013 the OMC process in Education and Training functions on the basis of six TWGs, as set out in table 1. Because of the reduction in their number, each of the TWGs will at the same time cover a wider range of subjects but be steered by more specific mandates, agenda's and 2 - In 2010, the Bruges Communiqué on enhanced European Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training took forward the Copenhagen process. - In 2011, the Commission adopted the Agenda for the Modernisation of Europe's Higher Education Systems that was welcomed in the Council conclusions of November In the same year, other important developments took place in education and training policy, with the Council Resolution on a renewed Agenda for Adult Learning, the Council Recommendation on policies to reduce Early School Leaving and the Council Conclusions on Early Childhood Education and Care. - In 2012, the Commission adopted the Rethinking Education Communication, with updated policy priorities in education and training that have been endorsed in the Council conclusions on investing in education of February

3 roadmaps towards concrete outputs linked to the policy priorities (see section 2 for details). Table 1: Future Thematic Working Groups in Education and Training Thematic Working Group 1 Schools, including Early School Leaving and the Teaching Profession 2 Modernisation of Higher Education 3 Vocational Education and Training, including apprenticeships and workbased learning 4 Adult Learning, including reducing the number of low-skilled adults (up-skilling and reskilling) 5 Transversal Skills, including ICT and Entrepreneurial Skills (and Languages once the new benchmark is agreed) 6 Digital and Online Learning Responsible HLG or DG DG Schools DG Higher Education DG VT DGVT HLG E&T HLG E&T Justification Europe 2020 Headline Target on ESL; Rethinking Education priority; subject of several CSRs Europe 2020 Headline Target on completion HE; Modernising Higher Education priority; subject of several CSRs Rethinking Education priority; subject of several CSRs Rethinking Education priority; subject of several CSRs Rethinking Education priority; subject of several CSRs Rethinking Education priority For important horizontal policy questions mentioned as priorities in the Council Conclusions on investing in education and training of February 2013 and subject of several CSRs it is proposed that they would be mainstreamed in all TWG activities. This should be the case of: - Sustainable and efficient funding for education and training (to be mainstreamed particularly in Groups 1, 2 and 3 of table 1); - Social and equity aspects of education and training (notably with respect to target groups such as young unemployed, long-term unemployed, Roma etc.). Questions related to the teachers and trainers are of horizontal relevance to all TWGs and will be tackled by each of them to the degree necessary. It is suggested that the thematic lead for the professional development of teachers and trainers should be taken by the TWG on Schools. The currently active TWGs will not be extended beyond the end of their mandate (see the list and expiration dates in annex 1). As foreseen in their current mandate, the TWG on 3

4 Early Childhood Education and Care will continue until March 2014 to develop the quality framework in that area and the TWG on Languages will continue until September 2014 for the preparation of the new benchmark on language skills. All new TWGs will have the same sunset clause (the duration of which remains to be determined). 2. ADAPTING TWG WORKING METHODS 2.1. A steering role for the HLG E&T / DG VT, Schools or Higher Education meetings in establishing TWG mandates and work plans In response to the Council's request for a greater Member State ownership of the OMC process, it is proposed to upgrade the role of the HLG E&T / DG VT, Schools or Higher Education meetings in steering the work of the TWGs under their responsibility. It is notably suggested that in collaboration with the Commission the HLG E&T / DG VT, Schools or Higher Education meetings endorse (for each of the TWGs under their responsibility): - The mandates for the new TWGs. These mandates should refer explicitly to each TWG's role in implementing the new priorities as well as to their country-supportive dimension, notably in follow-up of CSRs (see section 2.3). - A detailed work plan, including priority objectives, peer review activities, and precise expected outputs. - The profile of the experts required. While participation is open to all Member States, those with CSRs in a specific area are particularly encouraged to take part in the TWG dedicated to that area. 3 In general, Member States should ensure that the nominated experts are "representatives" with relevant experience at national level, who are in a position to ensure effective and regular communication with their national high-level policymakers on the work and outcomes of the TWG The practical functioning of TWGs - As discussed by the HLG E&T in December, TWGs should increasingly concentrate on delivering concrete and useable outputs, as indicated in their mandate and work plan. - The Commission continues to chair the TWGs. The Chair is responsible for ensuring the regularity and necessary intensity of the TWGs work (also in between meetings, through use of ICT-tools). The Chair must also see to it that TWGs remain on target, stick to their specific priority and follow their roadmap towards concrete outcomes. The Commission will also provide expertise, and logistical and secretarial support to the work of the TWGs. - To improve Member State ownership of the TWGs, it is proposed that TWGs designate "Leaders" for particular themes to be worked out in accordance with the work plan. "Leaders" should be Member State representatives/experts. 3 States with the status of "candidate country" are also invited to participate. 4

5 - TWGs can decide to invite independent experts and stakeholders in case this is relevant to achieve the expected outcomes. In view of the OECD's expertise in country-analysis and education and training policy, it should in principle be invited systematically to TWGs under ET CEDEFOP will be required to contribute only to the TWGs on VET and Adult Learning. - TWGs must have the flexibility to organise their work in accordance with their specific necessities. - TWGs will meet in Brussels as a main rule, but can organise meetings outside Brussels when invited by a Member state and when this is relevant to achieving the expected outcomes. The holding of virtual discussions/meetings may also be considered, if feasible and appropriate TWGs should strengthen their country-supportive dimension, notably in the European Semester context Devising a successful approach to challenges in education and training policies depends on taking into full consideration the often significant differences in the Member States' economic, social and legal backgrounds. In this context, a "one size fits all" approach is often inappropriate. The TWGs should differentiate their messages according to the needs and situations of different groups of countries. Thanks to their composition and peer review activities, TWGs have a unique country-specific expertise that should be better used, notably in the European Semester context. a) Building up country-specific analytical capacity To be able to differentiate their policy messages and suggestions according to the needs of country groups, TWGs must be encouraged to systematically build up their knowledge of country situations. To allow them to further develop this function, TWGs could be asked (for the themes under their specific competence) to: - Produce country policy updates on relevant on-going national developments with respect to priority themes (in case the information is not available elsewhere). Good practice in this sense has already been developed, for example, for the development of new European initiatives such as Opening up Education through new technologies and the European Alliance for Apprenticeships. - Systematically develop country specific knowledge and concrete policy guidance through peer review activities as decided by the Council in February 2012 and peer learning activities in so far as they are pertinent in light of the political priorities. - Provide country-specific and thematic feedback on the draft Education and Training Monitor (before its publication), receive an annual Commission debriefing on the Monitor's new data (after its publication) and suggest the future themes that could be the subject of data collection and analysis in the following year. - Assess and draw common lessons and policy guidance from the differentiated policy pathways that Member States are pursuing to reach the Europe 2020 headline targets and ET 2020 benchmarks. - When appropriate, foresee a time-slot in the margin of TWG meetings (and if needed of Directors-General meetings) for DG EAC country desks to have bilateral discussions with Member State experts. 5

6 Several of the above-listed elements are taken from the existing good practice of some of the TWGs. b) Assisting clusters of Member States in following up on CSRs Several TWGs are working in policy areas that are the subject of CSRs. To help Member States in implementing such CSRs, it is proposed that: - TWGs receive an annual Commission debriefing on the new CSRs that are relevant to the theme of the TWG (during the first session of the TWG following the annual June Council that endorses the CSRs) and devote sufficient attention and time on the issue of assisting clusters of Member States in tackling common challenges identified in CSRs. - TWGs implement a schedule of structured peer review and peer learning activities focusing on the implementation of the CSRs and be involved in peer reviews organised by the European institutions, such as the Employment Committee. 4 The peer review and peer learning activities could entail multilateral and/or bilateral dimensions, depending on Member State views as to the approach(es) which can be of most practical assistance to them in addressing CSRs. - As part of their work report, TWGs produce a short annual state-of-play on the results achieved in providing country-supportive expertise in the follow-up of CSRs. To avoid misunderstandings, it should be noted that TWGs will not be called upon in the annual process of preparing new CSRs to individual Member States. Furthermore, TWGs can work on issues which are not subject to CSRs but are related and important to implement fully the recommendations. For TWGs active in policy areas currently without CSRs, their country-specific analytical work under (a) could pave the way towards involvement in CSR assistance at a later stage (when the policy field has been further developed) A steering role for the HLG E&T / DG VT, Schools or Higher Education meetings in following-up on TWG reporting As was underlined in the Council Conclusions of February 2013, there is a need for a better communication between the TWGs and the Member States. - It should become standard practice for TWGs to provide regular and brief written reports to the responsible HLG/DG meeting on the state-of-progress in the Group. On important partial or final outcomes, HLG/DG meetings should receive oral briefings from TWGs in their area (by the Chair and Leader). HLG/DG meetings should decide which key policy results should be presented to the Council (via the Education Committee). - To stimulate Member State ownership of the OMC process, this regular reporting to the responsible HLG/DG meeting will provide Member States an opportunity to give 4 Peer reviews that are important for the implementation of CSRs should, as far as possible, take into account the timing of the European Semester. This implies that they should be planned after the Council's annual adoption of CSRs, but before the preparation by the Commission of the next round of CSRs. The peer review by the TWG on Early School Leaving on 15 March 2013 constitutes a good example. 6

7 guidance to the TWGs in order to guarantee the desired outcome and timeline, as well as the coordination of the groups' work. They should also explain how they will use these outputs. - TWG activities (membership, meeting agenda's, meeting reports and key outcomes) should be easily available for all concerned officials and Member State participants. - Each Member State is encouraged to bring together its national experts (representatives) who are already participating in the various TWGs on education and training (once per year). Such meetings would not only allow for an exchange of experiences between experts of the same Member State, but also provide for a discussion with the top-level officials on the EU's key priorities in education and training at national level. This is already a good practice in some Member States. - The terms of reference of both the HLG E&T and of all three DG formations would need to be revised to reflect the inclusion of a steering role, as proposed above, in their remit. CONCLUSION - Since optimising OMC working methods is on the agenda of the DG VT, Schools, and Higher Education meetings in the spring 2013, they are invited to hold an exchange of views on the proposals mentioned in this note. - The HLG E&T is invited to finalise the framework for TWG refocusing at its meeting in June As requested by the Council, the revised TWG organisation (as proposed in this note) and the various TWG work plans will be integrated in an overall OMC work programme in Education and Training. 7

8 Annex 1 Currently Active Thematic Working Groups Existing Thematic Working Groups Expiration Date Suggested Future 1. ICT & Education June 2013 Topic transferred to new TWG on Transversal Skills 2. Math, Science and Technology July 2013 No continuation 3. Entrepreneurship Education November 2013 Topic transferred to new TWG on Transversal Skills 4. Teacher Professional Development September 2013 Topic transferred to new TWG on Schools (including Teachers) 5. Quality in Adult Learning October 2013 Topic transferred to new TWG on Adult Learning (as a horizontal issue) 6. Financing Adult Learning October 2013 Topic transferred to new TWG on Adult Learning (as a horizontal issue) 7. Early School Leaving December 2013 Continuation with new TWG on Schools (including ESL) 8. Modernisation of Higher Education December 2013 Continuation with new TWG on Modernisation Higher Education 9. VET Trainers February 2014 Topic transferred to new TWG on VET (as a horizontal issue) and partly to TWG on Schools (that includes Teachers) 10. Early Childhood Education and Care 11. Languages in Education and Training March 2014 Continuation until the establishment of ECEC quality framework September 2014 Continuation until the establishment of new benchmark; thereafter integration in TGW on Transversal Skills 8

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