Commission publishes report on Quality Investment in Education and Training


In May 2021, the European Commission set up an Expert Group on Quality Investment in Education and Training as a follow-up initiative on the Communication on Achieving the European Education Area by 2025. Its mission was to provide recommendations to member states on how to efficiently use the education budget available at national level, identify policies that have the potential to boost education outcomes, promote inclusion and equity and ensure pupils’ well-being. After more than one year of work, on 19 October 2022, Commissioner Maryia Gabriel and Stefaan Hermans (Director Policy Strategy and Evaluation, European Commission, DG EAC) hosted a meeting to present the final report from the expert group. The conclusions were also included in the Commission staff working document which accompanied the Communication “Progress towards the achievement of the European Education Area” published on 18 November 2022.

ETUCE regrets that this final report does not include any specific support to collegial governance and democratic leadership, despite the repeated requests coming from social partners, and simply list collegiality as one of the non-pecuniary elements of the workplace that affect teachers’ working conditions. ETUCE considers that each decision-making having an impact on teachers and learners must be the result of meaningful social dialogue with education workers in the education sector. It is disappointing that the report totally omits the crucial role of meaningful consultation with education social partners and collective bargaining, including at local level, to ensure quality education and improve social standards.

However, ETUCE welcomes the opening of the report by Maryia Gabriel: "Public investment in education and training is investment in our future. Within the European Union, we are committed to ensure that everyone receives the best education possible.” This indicates a growing consensus around one of the main messages ETUCE has always keenly advocated: the fundamental role of public investment to provide quality and inclusive education for all. It also moves in line with the joint “Declaration to build a shared vision of effective, efficient and equitable investment in education” adopted in April 2022 by Education, University and Research Ministers of the EU.

As the expert group report confirms, investing in education and training pays off with long-lasting effects in the medium-to-long term. The experts call for timely actions because the earlier the investment is made, the larger the future benefits. ETUCE therefore supports the experts’ advice that addressing existing and emerging challenges will require major public investment in several sectors, which will extend beyond the scope and time horizon of the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

Ensuring public investment cannot be subject to a simple cost-benefit analysis, as the report suggests. Despite the recognition of the specificities of the education sector and the fact that education policies are investments with current costs and long-term benefits, the report calls for a cost-benefit analysis of education policies to assess the efficiency of such interventions and choose among different policies to promote sustainable public finances.  ETUCE criticises the underlying market-oriented approach to investment in education adopted in the report, de facto encouraging the commodification of education and its detriment as a public good and human right.

On digitalisation, the experts conclude that “the use of digital technologies for teaching and learning can offer huge opportunities to boost educational outcomes, if properly planned and designed”. ETUCE believes that the digital transition should not be considered as a panacea for every problem in the education sector. In fact, digitalisation within the education sector presents a considerable risk of privatisation, a process which could result in a decrease of inclusion and transparent planning. Policymakers should refrain from considering digital education as a cheap alternative to replace in-presence educational activities. Digital tools can be supportive tools for in-presence teaching to guarantee high-quality education to all students and preserve the social aspects of learning, but investments should strongly focus on addressing existing needs of teachers regarding the pedagogical use of IT’s.

ETUCE welcomes the call to guarantee good working conditions for teachers and reducing teachers’ work-related stress and promoting their well-being as crucial measures for an enthusiastic and dynamic teacher workforce. However, while the report highlights the benefits of raising teachers’ pedagogical and digital competences and notes the importance of reducing class-sizes, it overlooks the significance of professional autonomy, free of charge continuous professional development and of decent salaries in bringing stability to the teaching profession.

ETUCE adamantly opposes the proposal to measure “teachers’ effectiveness” through students’ test scores. We strongly argue that education is not a performance-related profession where the learning outcome of pupils reflects the quality of teaching. This kind of approach disrespects and undermines the work of teachers. It creates an arbitrary means of evaluation by not considering the whole pedagogical dimension of the teaching profession and neglects the complexity of students’ and parents’ social and economic reality. This would only lead to further exclusion and as such, can never be tolerated.