Across Europe austerity measures are taking effect and education, perversely, seems to be baring the brunt. That was the focus of a round table discussion held yesterday in the European Parliament, organised by SOLIDAR; a network of NGOs working to advance social justice across Europe. The discussion was interesting, if a little bleak.
We had presentations from Ms Natalya Gryazeva of the Education and Science Workers’ Trade Unions, Latvia; Ms Fionnuala Richardson from The People’s College, Ireland; and finally, Mr David Lopez from La Ligue de L’Enseignement (The Teaching League), France. The general picture was that across Europe educational institutions were having to cope with severely reduced budget and increased demand.
The mind boggles at the short-sightedness of cutting education budgets. In the EU 2020 strategy (which David Cameron has signed, as have all member state governments) education and lifelong learning are given a very high priority. This makes perfect sense since, in a time of financial crisis when lots of people are losing their jobs, what we really need is for people to have the opportunity to reskill so they can return to work.
Also, as I pointed out at the meeting, Europe can no longer compete with emerging economies in terms of manufacturing so we have to invest in giving people the skills they need to work in the new ‘knowledge economy’. Failure to properly invest in education could have the effect of compounding and prolonging the financial crisis.
We have no power in the EU to tell member states how to spend their budgets, but I hope that we can put the message across that spending on education should not be cut. It should be one of the areas that investment should increase, because you will see far greater returns in the long run.
Read the press release about the event here.