April 7, 2015
The present economic crises is challenging education and training systems of Europe in two major ways. First is the matter of investing in growth policies, a vital part of which are education and training policies, with the pressing issue of consolidating public finance. Additionally, youth unemployment has reached 23.2% which EU structures cannot tolerate to continue. In the economic sense, education and training exert influence on innovation and productivity which is why it is a source of growth and contributes to the employment of population, including youth. A half of member states have stopped investing in education and training while the current crises urges them to strengthen the results of education and training systems as well as intervene by making systems relevant to labor market needs. Recent studies which evaluate the impact of investment in education are arguing for a better match between education and world of work. In changing policies the responsibility lies with national governments however the EU structures offer significant support. The year 2014 marked the beginning of the new support scheme. The new Erasmus+ program 2014-2020 which is now the only education, training, youth and sports program of the EU has been subject to a 40% increase in its budget amounting to more than 14 billion Euros.
The pie chart below shows the allocation in percentage of the Erasmus + program 2014-2020 funds. A 77.5% of the funds, which in the mean time constitute the vast majority of funds, are allocated to education and training. Youth programs have received 10% of the funds, which is followed by student loan facility (3.5%), national agencies (3.4%), administrative costs (1.9%), Jean Monnet (1.9%) and finally a 1.8% has been allocated to sport.
It is evident from the chart above that Erasmus+ will concentrate most of its funding in education and training. This scheme will finance the mobility of 3.59 million students/vocational students/volunteers/lecturers and education staff between 2014 and 2020. Between 2014 and 2020, 11.3 billion Euro will be invested in improving the education and training landscape in Europe. Within this scheme the majority of funds, 4.8 billion, is allocated to higher education ( please see table below).
The second most important sector has been considered the VET- Vocational Education Training which will benefit 2.5 billion. This sum will be used to increase the employability and life skills of vocational learners. Schools will be able to spent 1.7 billion in reducing early school leaving, improving learning of basic skills and the establishment of the eTwinning, the online community offering support for teachers, pupils and school leaders. A sum of 569 million will be used in programs addressing adult education which will be used to improve and modernize adult education programs, encourage cooperation with different sectors and evaluate the utility of non-formal and informal education. Finally, 1.7 billion Euro will be allocated to programs as needed. Europe is spending a lot of money in education but the same problems remain. In my opinion the three factors that are not being considered are the ones that will make the difference.
Applying new technologies in education and training
The new technologies offer many ways to make learning effective, engaging and inclusive. First, these developments make it possible for education to reach more people at a lower cost. This form of learning can easily be made creative and innovative, but Europe is not using the potential of new technologies to meet the needs of learners. Technology can offer access to quality education and promote individual learning.
In the last years we have seen the emergence of MOOC, known as Massive Open Online Courses, which offer unlimited access to courses provided in the web. Unfortunately, studies show that many professionals in European universities do not even know what MOOCs are, and only 9 European Universities are involved in such initiatives. In order to encourage this form of learning EU structures are considering recognizing the competencies learnt online.
Enhancing digital competences
In order for all individuals to benefit from engaging, effective and inclusive learning more should be done to enhance their digital competencies. Gaining access to this form of learning is conditional upon possessing certain technological skills. Many experts are arguing that the “right” skills for the 21 century are the digital competencies. It is a reason to worry that only 30-35 % of students in EU countries are digitally confident.
Higher education and its components are changing fast and radically by globalization and technological developments. In my opinion this is emphasizing the ability of learners to respond to an ever changing environment by continuously learning. It is expected that the demand for higher education will continue to increase and Europe will have to learn how to respond to this demand as well as how to respond to the competition with other educational powers.
Learning should take place beyond the typical teaching environment and should thus focus on not just the knowledge but also in developing the skills necessary to continue benefiting and learning from experience. In line with this it should be noted that the pedagogy underneath the concept of experiential learning is one that benefits greatly the organizations assuring that employees learn what businesses want them to learn consequently, experiential learning has been linked to positive impacts in the workplace.
This theory postulates that there are four types of learners: accommodative, convergent, divergent and assimilative. The differences between learners lie on the way they obtain and process information. Many assessment inventories are readily available and can be used to identify learning styles in all settings. It is my argument that if we fit instruction to learning needs of students/participants outcomes will be higher.
Accounting for differences in learning styles will result in providing students with more freedom in terms of choosing course objectives, content, and activities as well as how much time is allocated to each.