Policy Developments

Important policy developments

EU co-operation on education and training forms part of a broader vision for European growth and prosperity, which encompasses a wide variety of sectors. The most important policy developments for education are:

  • Europe 2020
  • Education & Training 2020

Europe 2020

Education and training plays a key part in the Europe 2020 strategy, the EU’s overarching programme focusing on growth and jobs.

The strategy recognises that knowledge, and the innovation it sparks, are the EU’s most valuable assets. It is designed to increase the EU’s growth and aims to bring high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion.

It sets targets in five priority areas for the EU, one of which is education: the share of early school leavers across the EU should be under 10%, and at least 40% of the younger generation should have a tertiary degree.

These have been translated into two challenging national targets:

Europe 2020 TargetIrish National Targets

Irish Progress to Target

(2011 Figures)

Higher education attainment:

At least 40% of 30-34 years old should have completed a tertiary or equivalent education


By 2020, 60% of Irish 30-34 year olds should have completed tertiary or equivalent education



Early leavers from education and training:

Less than 10% early school leaving.


By 2020, the rate of early school leavers not in further education and training should be reduced to 8%.



Education and Training 2020

Education and Training 2020 is the current overall framework for EU political cooperation in education.

This framework was agreed by Education Ministers in 2009, and has four main priorities:

1.      Making lifelong learning and learner mobility a reality

2.      Improving the quality and efficiency of education and training

3.      Promoting equity, social cohesion and active citizenship

4.      Enhancing innovation and creativity, including entrepreneurship, at all levels of education and training.

The strategic framework has also come with a set of performance indicators against which progress will be measured.  These include ensuring that:

  • At least 15 % of adults should participate in lifelong learning
  • Less than 15% of 15 year olds should be low-achieving in reading, mathematics and science
  • At least 95% of children between 4 years old and the age for starting compulsory primary education should participate in early childhood education
  • At least 20 % of new higher education graduates should have had a higher education-related study or training period abroad
  • At least 6 % of new graduates from initial vocational education and training should have had an initial VET-related study or training period abroad. 

Country-by-country information on these benchmarks.