Investing in Education is investing in people: priorities in the Annual Growth Survey 2016


On 27 November, the annual cycle of economic governance coordination - the European Semester - was kicked off with the publication of the Annual Growth Survey 2016. The Annual Growth Survey (AGS) is a Communication from the European Commission setting priorities for Member states for the forthcoming year, also with a view of reforming their national education and training systems.

The European Commission has recognised that a moderate economic recovery has taken place in Europe in 2015. However, economic performance, social conditions and implementation of reforms are still very uneven across Europe. Thus, the European Commission proposes to foster upward convergence towards the ‘best-performing’ countries according to three main priorities. Pursuing structural reforms and fiscal consolidation are two priorities set by the Annual Growth Survey 2016.

The third priority for 2016 is to re-launch investment. According to the European Commission, efforts made to mobilise private and public investments in the frame of the Investment Plan for Europe should be ‘extended to human capital and social investments’. The Annual Growth Survey recognises the severe fall in investment in education across Europe (-3.2% at EU level since 2010). It also argues in favour of ‘performance-oriented reforms of education and training systems’ aimed at enhancing performance and at equipping people with relevant skills for companies and businesses. ETUCE warns that an approach to education reforms only focused on contingent labour market needs could place a disruptive long-term burden on economies and societies. This message had been delivered to the European Commission at the occasion of the early-stage consultation with social partners earlier in 2015 (read the ETUC priorities for the AGS 2016 for more details).

Teacher unions across Europe welcome the invitation by the European Commission for a closer involvement of social partners at all levels in the European Semester. ETUCE believes that education and training reforms should be based on the quality teaching and learning outcomes approach, in relation to societal and employability needs. Therefore, they should be designed by education policy makers in close cooperation with education social partners and education actors such as teachers, school heads, school leaders, students and parents.

ETUCE has long been calling EU Member states and institutions to enhance investment in education. Nonetheless, ETUCE denounces that any attempt to enhance the role of the private sectors in financing, delivering and managing education institutions and/or education services is hampering equity of access and participation to education, thus resulting in increased discrimination, social fragmentation and widening inequality. Several times, ETUCE has opposed attempts to mobilise private capital to overcome cuts in education budget. Martin Rømer, ETUCE European director commented that ‘It is surprising that on one hand the European Commission rightly identifies the solutions to overcome public investment shortages, for example by encouraging Member states to fight tax fraud and tax evasion, and on the other hand it incentivises private capital flows into education and training”.