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Jobs and Competitiveness, Post 2015 Agenda

The Education We Need

By Eva Paunova, Member of the EPP Group in the European Parliament and Vice-President of European Movement International

The EU is a club of countries generating more than 50% of global GDP. These countries have great ambitions, impressive ideas and high hopes for the future. Yet, these societies are facing some significant challenges, which are putting extra pressure on our new generation. This is reflected by the spectacular numbers of young people outside employment, education or training – 7 million. So, how can we provide better career opportunities and an enabling environment for EU citizens to thrive and to realise their potential?

Providing better career opportunities

The EU is coming out of one of the deepest economic depressions the world has ever seen. The financial and economic crisis left empty banks and pockets, struggling companies and thousands of unemployed. But, most importantly, it discouraged many people to take risks, start their own business and so become drivers of the economy.

The EU in the 21st century is in great need of rethinking its economic model. We are already feeling the constraints of the old paradigms based on industrial production, resource-consumtion and environmentally unfriendly manufacturing. Growth and jobs no longer come from smoking chimneys and huge corporations – they depend on the individual initiative of each and every one of us. And for that, we need a society of fast-thinking, determined, entrepreneurial and goal-oriented people with a real vision of progress. In short, we need better education.

Albert Einstein once famously said that education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. This means that what counts are not mathematical formulas and chemical equations that are hard to remember or use, but the understanding of the world we develop and the set of skills we acquire.

There are several ideas that would help us follow Einstein’s advice.

More dual and vocational systems
These systems bring young people into real-life professional situations while still in schools and universities. With such experiences, students are enabled to make better-informed decisions about their future and to establish their career plan. The close interaction between educational institutions and businesses also helps to identify and create the skills in greatest demand in the labour market. Take the ICT sector, for instance: more than 900,000 new positions will be open to specialists in the next five years and we should encourage young people to develop in this sphere.

Education developing the entrepreneurial spirit
We need to give young people the idea of entrepreneurship as early as we can. If we encourage students to think critically and act with a vision, they will become adults with ideas and the ability to realise them. This is precisely the type of generation we need in the current economic environment, where it is easier than ever to start your own business. A generation or two ago, this would not have been feasible, as economies were dominated by capital-intensive industries. Perhaps today it is too hard to start an industrial factory, but it is quite easy to start a technology business. You need some ideas and a computer, and a good educational basis to go about it.

Education for responsible citizens
We also need education to challenge the idea that it is only the state that is responsible for citizens’ well-being. This idea kills the initiative in many young people and is one of the factors for the high level of youth unemployment in Europe. It is more of a cultural problem, reinforced by the manifestos of political parties that promise easily available food, free electricity and generous social payments. Education needs to encourage participation, social and political activity, and active citizenship.

If we rethink our educational model and operate within the context of the 21st century, we will be able to create young adults that will become the creators, the entrepreneurs, the leaders, the drivers of our economy and society. Our future begins now.

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