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School development and excellent teaching

School development and excellent teaching



Communication (COM(2017) 248 final) — School development and excellent teaching for a great start in life


The communication identifies the challenges facing schools and teaching in the EU and outlines ways in which the EU can support EU countries in reforming their school systems to face these challenges.


Schools play a pivotal role in lifelong learning, and therefore action is needed to improve the quality and performance of school education. Almost all EU countries face several key challenges.

  • Weaknesses in competence development:
    • 1 in 5 pupils have serious difficulties in reading, mathematics and science skills, leading to the likelihood of lifelong obstacles for social inclusion and employability;
    • a relatively low proportion of pupils achieve very good results;
    • many young people lack appropriate digital skills;
    • despite progress towards the Europe 2020 target to reduce the school drop-out rate to less than 10%, too many young people leave education or training prematurely.
  • School education not playing its full part in promoting equity and social fairness:
    • the gender gaps in mathematics and science are narrowing, but stereotyping still makes engagement harder to reach;
    • young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are four times more likely to have low educational achievement than those with more advantaged backgrounds;
    • there are specific challenges for pupils with migrant or Roma backgrounds;
    • Estonia and Finland have shown that school education systems can deliver high levels of both achievement and equity at the same time.
  • Effect of the pace of technological and digital change on economies and societies:
    • schools need to respond better to this new reality — it is no longer sufficient to equip young people with skills or knowledge that may not be lasting;
    • schools need to develop resilience and the ability to adapt to change with new ways of learning in an increasingly mobile and digital world;
    • education systems need to be modernised to promote creativity, critical thinking and an entrepreneurial mindset.

There are three areas where EU support can help address the challenges.

  • Developing better and more inclusive schools, including:
    • supporting all learners and their competence development;
    • enhancing learning by opening up to new forms of cooperation with, for example, local services, community organisations, businesses and universities to help young people to prepare for future employment and studies;
    • improving access to and quality of early childhood education and care.
  • Supporting teachers and school leaders for excellent teaching and learning, including:
    • making teaching careers more attractive;
    • viewing teaching as a profession of career-long learners working together;
    • supporting school leadership.
  • Becoming more effective, equitable and efficient in running school education systems:
    • investing adequately and efficiently in school resources;
    • combining autonomy and quality assurance.

The European Commission also undertakes to:

  • increase cooperation between schools through Erasmus+ and participation in eTwinning;
  • develop a self-assessment tool for schools on digital capacity;
  • support improvements in education in science, technologies, engineering and maths (STEM) through links and cooperation of higher education, research and businesses with schools;
  • promote and support policy experimentation on developing multilingual pedagogies and teaching in diverse classrooms as part of the 2018 Erasmus+ work programme;
  • follow the observations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by supporting cooperation between the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education and EU countries;
  • support high-quality early childhood education and care and share best practice;
  • offer policy guidance on the careers and professional development of teachers and school leaders;
  • simplify access and promote opportunities for future teachers to gain practical teaching experience abroad with the support of Erasmus+;
  • develop online communities and resources for school professionals;
  • further develop joint projects with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to produce comparative data on school staff;
  • set up a technical support arrangement in cooperation with the OECD to assist EU countries needing assistance with major school education reforms;
  • put forward a joint report on the effectiveness and efficiency of expenditure in school education; and
  • develop policy guidance on quality assurance together with EU countries and stakeholders.

The way forward

Reforming school education systems is a task for EU countries, but the Commission is ready to support them with a range of EU tools and processes. The European semester is a tried-and-tested driver, while voluntary cooperation under ET 2020 should be further developed to assist EU countries. In particular, the Education and Training Monitor should be used in full to help EU countries take informed and evidence-based policy decisions.


See also:


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — School development and excellent teaching for a great start in life (COM(2017) 248 final, 30.5.2017)


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Investing in Europe’s youth (COM(2016) 940 final, 7.12.2016)

last update 10.08.2017