2015 - 2017 Project on Investing in Education

Acknowledging the broad effect of the European economic governance process on education and training reforms at national level, and considering education as the priority lever for progress, ETUCE monitors all the phases of the new European economic governance process (European Semester) with a view to promote the European teacher unions’ vision of quality education for all. Since 2011, under the strain of the economic and financial crisis, the coordinated economic governance has failed to deliver a sustainable recovery. On the contrary, based on the austerity dogma, implemented structural reforms are dramatically deteriorating education and training systems, as well as teachers’ professional and personal wellbeing and education outcomes. In the context of the current austerity policies, many governments are opening the way to increasing privatisation of potentially profitable education services by free enterprise interests, thus jeopardizing across Europe free access to quality education for all, which is in ETUCE’s view one of the fundamental pillars of a just and democratic society. ETUCE has long been campaigning and mobilizing its member organisations for Quality of Education in Europe, proposing teachers’ alternative approaches to improving education systems based on growth-enhancing investment and solidarity rather than economic and social competition.

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Investing in Education: Strengthening the involvement of teacher trade unions in the European Semester on education and training


With a view to quality education, ETUCE seeks to provide teacher unions with the competences, specific knowledge and understanding they need to strengthen their involvement in the European Semester and to enhance their contribution to the European and national policy making on education and training. ETUCE has been deeply concerned about decreasing investment in education and the lack of participation of teacher unions in the European Semester policy coordination in many European countries. Recently, some trends have emerged which require teacher unions to take further actions. Firstly, the Country Specific Recommendations of the European Semester have been covering extensively education and training priorities. Secondly, in spite of the many calls to protect investments on growth-enhancing areas, many Member states have operated drastic cuts on education and training. This was mainly due to the financial situation resulting from the economic crisis, and the continuous demands to bring down public debt and to pursue fiscal consolidation in the framework of the European Semester. Thirdly, such strict economic coordination and budget surveillance has encouraged governments across Europe to look for other ways of financing education e.g. by promoting public-private partnership in education or by widening the space for private, commercial and financial actors in education.

The project seeks to provide specific knowledge to teacher unions to be more involved in the European Semester process, and to shed some light on the effects of the Semester on national reforms and investment in education and training. Finally teacher unions are going to discuss further actions to contribute to the European Semester in education and training at national and European level.

Advisory Group

The advisory group is responsible for carrying out the planning, organisation and evaluation of the project. The members come from five national teacher unions. A close partnership with the Danish Union of Teachers (DLF) guarantees the development of actions which correspond to the needs of teacher unions at national level, suffering from the complexity and lack of awareness on the European Semester issues. All advisory group members were chosen as to ensure a geographical balance. As members of the ETUCE Platform on the European Semester, they provide expertise on structural reforms and investment on education and training, national contexts of social dialogue and bring in knowledge and expertise on the national European Semester to contribute to the success of the project.

In the main project phase, five 1,5-day regional trainings and a final project conference will take place.

The advisory Group consists of:

- Kristina Aaltonen, DLF, Denmark

- Sandi Mondrijan, ESTUS - Slovenia

- Claudio Franchi, FLC-CGIL, Italy

- Tatjana Babrauskiene, FLESTU, Lithuania

- Kevin Bonello, MUT, Malta

MUT sviz  DLF logo Pantone 2362 SMALL logo flc cgil3FLESTU logo


Regional Training Seminars

During the project life-time, five regional trainings are to be delivered to ETUCE member organisations across Europe. Based on the ETUCE activity on the European Semester, the Advisory Group, together with the research expert, prepares the trainings. The regional training seminars are going to place in in Valletta for the Southern region, in Rome for the Western region, in Copenhagen for the Nordic and Anglo-Saxon region, in Vilnius for the Baltic and Central region, in Ljubljana for Balkan and Eastern region. The trainings are to provide teacher trade unions from all sectors (pre-primary, primary, secondary, higher education and VET) with the competences, specific knowledge and understanding they need to strengthen their involvement in the European Semester and to enhance their contribution to the European and national policy making on education and training. Participants are also having the chance to discuss how to enhance cooperation with other actors, such as governments, employers and other trade unions.

  • 1st Training Seminar, Malta, 29 February – 1 March 2016

malta tsOn 29 February and 1 March 2016, the first training seminar in Malta for ETUCE member organisations coming from Southern European countries was conducted. Participants were introduced to the functioning of the European Semester and discussed the influence of the Country Specific Recommendations on the daily work of teachers and education and training reforms and budget. They had the opportunity to discuss about the national effects of the Country Specific Recommendations on education and training and to debate about further national and European strategies to be strengthen their participation in the Economic governance coordination mechanism. During a series of presentations participants acquired a broad picture of the European Semester at European (professor Howard Stevenson, University of Nottingham) and national level (Alexandra Zammit, EU Semester Officer in Malta and Gwen Gatt, Maltese Ministry of Education), the ETUCE Action Plan on the European Semester, national strategies to gain more influence (Kristina Aaltonen, DLF, project co-applicant). The President of the Maltese Union of Teachers (Kevin Bonello, MUT), a member of the Advisory Group of the project, stressed the importance of social dialogue to influence the European Semester and of timely reactions to the frequent developments in national education and training policy and reforms. Odile Cordelier (ETUCE Vice-president) recalled the essential role of active participation at national level and coordination at European level. Pictures - Seminar Report.

  • 2nd Training Seminar, Vilnius, 5 – 6 September 2016

20160905 114630On 5 and 6 September, the second training seminar of the current project was carried out successfully in Vilnius, Lithuania. The seminar had been merged with the training scheduled in Copenhagen. The European Semester was viewed and discussed from different perspectives: The project expert Howard Stevenson, University of Nottingham, stressed the link between increasing privatisation trends and fiscal surveillance policies in the framework of the European Semester in the course of the session “Impact of the Semester on public spending. A pathway to privatisation?”. Mr Jonas Rasimas, Economic Governance Officer of the European Commission in Lithuania, explained the actors and timeline of the European Semester, including consultation and negotiation processes with national social partners and stakeholders. Mr Ricardas Alisauskas from the Lithuanian Ministry of Education highlighted the diverse approach on the design and implementation of reforms triggered by CSRs on education and training between the Education ministry and the Ministry of Finance.

The participating representatives of ETUCE member organisations shared experience and discussed the effects of the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) on education and training on the current education reforms in their countries and on the work of teachers. They shared trade unions’ priorities and learned about examples from other countries. Delegates from DLF (Denmark) and FLESTU (Lithuania) introduced their international colleagues to their own unions’ strategies to take actions on the European Semester. Pictures - Seminar Report

  • 3rd Training Seminar, Rome, 20 – 21 October 2016

20161020 121454On 20-21 October 2016, ETUCE carried out the third training seminar in Rome, Italy. Trade union representatives from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and the Netherlands discussed the effects of the European Semester on national education and training reforms as well as investment and privatisation trends.

Thomas Hoelgaard (DLF) introduced the Danish teacher unions’ strategy for involvement in the European Semester. After a year of consultations at national and European level, DLF can identify the progress made but also difficulties encountered. As for the Italian case, Paola Serafin (CISL-Scuola) spoke about challenges the union faces when seeking dialogue with the national government. Rossella Benedetti (UIL and UIL Scuola) illustrated the involvement of the Italian trade unions in the European Semester through European and national trade union confederations. The research expert of the project, Professor Howard Stevenson from the University of Nottingham pointed out at the risks of privatisation in and of education triggered by the strict budgetary and fiscal constraints of the European Semester.

In active workshops, participants shared experience, discussed the recent Country Specific Recommendations and common problems for education deriving from the Semester mechanism, and put forward ideas on how to influence the European Semester. Pictures - Seminar Report

  • 4th Training Seminar, Ljubljana, 16 – 17 January 2017

IMG 20170117 093022On 16-17 January 2017, the fourth and last training seminar “Investing in education: Strengthening the involvement of teacher trade unions in the European Semester on education and training” was held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and gathered representatives from ETUCE member organisations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Denmark, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania, Slovenia and the UK. Given the participation of representatives from EU-candidate countries, the seminar put the economic governance framework of the EU in a broader context: participants learnt how the European Semester mechanism and the Europe 2020 strategy targets influence policymaking in the EU and beyond, with a particular look at South Eastern European countries.

Mr Georgios Zisimos (European Training Foundation) introduced the participants to the South East Europe strategy for 2020 (SEE2020) and to the “European Semester” for EU candidate countries. Prof Howard Stevenson from the University of Nottingham (external researcher in the project) presented the mechanism of the European Semester and its impact on privatisation patterns in and of education across Europe. From Ms Tina Vončina, European Semester Officer in Slovenia, participants learnt about the EU institutions’ role on the process. Branimir Štrukelj, General Secretary of ESTUS and ETUCE Vice-President, made a link between the events and actions within the complex European Semester timeline and basic trade unions’ work, interests and social dialogue. Sandi Modrijan, representative of ETUCE’s Slovenian member organisation ESTUS, and Thomas Hoelgaard from the Danish union and co-applicant DLF shared their experiences with education trade union involvement in the European Semester. In two workshop sessions, participants then actively discussed and compared recent trends in education policy reforms and investment patterns, and developed strategies to be better involved in the European Semester at national and European level. Pictures - Seminar Report

Survey and research

eusemreportAn extensive research has been conducted on the effects of the European Semester on education and training reforms at national level, the involvement of teacher unions on the implementation of Country Specific Recommendations, and on the changing nature of investment in education. The Advisory Group is supported by the research expert, professor Howard Stevenson, from the University of Nottingham, UK, who further investigated whether and to what extent the changing nature of investment in education has resulted in some privatisation/outsourcing of education services.

The research report ‘Education and Training in the European Semester: Public Investment, Public Policy, Social Dialogue and Privatisation patterns across Europe’ (2017) was published at the occasion of the project’s final Conference.

On-line toolkit

eusemToolkitThe ‘Practical Guide for an effective involvement of education trade unions in the European Semester on education and training’ (2017)was published at the occasion of the project final conference. It gathers the training material collected during the training seminars conducted in the course of the project. Moreover, it provides useful suggestions, based on findings, on how to develop social dialogue in the European Semester – key points for education trade unions.


Final Conference

eusem2017The final project conference was held in Brussels on 30 May 2017. Around 90 representatives from ETUCE member organisation as well as other European stakeholders in education were presented the outcomes of the training seminars and of the research, discussed lessons learnt, and shared best practices and experience on enhanced involvement of education trade unions in the European Semester. This was done with a view to assess the implementation of the ETUCE Action Plan on the European Semester and to discuss further actions to contribute to the European Semester in education and training at national and European level, especially by developing a meaningful social dialogue in the Semester.

-        Conference Report

-        Pictures