In today’s Blog article, originally published on the website of the European Commission, Commissioner Tibor Navracsics of Hungary explains why investing in education is vital to the future of our continent.
Getting our economy growing again is Europe’s top political priority. This is crucial if we are to reduce the still shockingly high unemployment in the EU, especially among young people. It is also the precondition to stay competitive in the global arena. Education has a vital part to play in this effort.
Education helps to boost growth and job creation through several channels. By improving people’s skills and competences, it makes them more employable, allows them to deploy more efficient production methods and adjust to technological progress. Moreover, education provides people with the necessary knowledge and attitudes to push research and development and translate new ideas into innovation. The combined effects of these factors – higher employment, increased productivity and adaptability – enable Europe to compete in the global, knowledge-based economy.
But while our education systems are good, they are not good enough. To reap the full benefits of education, we will need structural reforms to improve them and make them more efficient. And Europe needs to invest more, invest more intelligently, and in the right place: the skills and competences of its people.
In the past few years, many Member States (19 in 2012) have reduced the share of Gross domestic product (GDP) that goes to education, while China, India, Australia, Brazil – are investing strategically in this area. South Africa spends 6.6% of its GDP on education; within the EU, only three Member States perform better. Brazil boosted its spending on education from 3.9% of GDP in 1999 to 5.8% in 2012, and is now above the EU-average of 5.3%.
We need to do better. We need to invest in education and training to ensure that Europe trains better teachers, provides citizens with the skills they need for today’s labour market and keeps education as open as possible to the greatest number of people. It is through our schools, training colleges and universities that we can exploit digital technologies to give people of all ages and social backgrounds access to learning. It is through our universities and research centres and their partnerships with business that we can boost Europe’s innovation capacity and bring new ideas to the market. This is where Europe has to put its money.
That is why education has rightly been put at the heart of the EU Investment Plan. The €315 bn European Fund for Strategic Investments, managed by the European Investment Bank and co-financed by the European Commission, offers great opportunities. Each Euro placed in the fund can attract additional private financing for strategic investments in education over the next three years, without resulting in additional public debt.
While investment has too often been lacking, good ideas for viable projects in the field of education are not. Financing innovative learning laboratories, strengthening cooperation between universities and businesses, improving infrastructure in rural areas and localities with marginalised communities – these are just a few examples of how investing in education will sustain Europe’s economic growth in the longer term. I will work with my fellow Commissioners to help turn ideas like these into reality and make them a success. But we need the support of Member States. I therefore encourage governments to endorse the Investment Plan at the European Council of 18-19 December, and to give it more firepower by making additional payments into the Fund. This will allow us to give valuable education projects an even bigger boost.
Education is of course much more than its economic added value. But in times of tight public budgets, low investment, unacceptably high unemployment and an urgent need for renewed growth and job creation, it is time to remember: education is among the best investments the EU can make. If offers real value for money. It pays off.
article originally published on ec.europa.edu
Dr. Tibor Navracsics, PhD (Veszprém, 1966), university professor and Fidesz politician who served as Minister of Public Administration and Justice between 2010 and 2014 and briefly as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade befire becoing European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.