Europe is undergoing a far-reaching financial, economic and social crisis, with thousands of companies going out of business, higher unemployment, falling salaries, budget cuts in social security systems, rising poverty and social exclusion. The difficult labour market situation has had and is continuing to have detrimental effects on the very fabric of society. Preserving the European Social Model requires society as a whole to make a collective effort, demonstrating solidarity with people excluded from the labour market but also with future generations.
In times of crisis, it should be reiterated that education is a fundamental human right and a public good, which should be guaranteed for everyone under equal conditions. A well-educated young generation able to make its own choices is a prerequisite for emerging successfully from the crisis. Member States should therefore pay particular attention to public investment in education and vocational training as well as in research and innovation.
The Europe 2020 Strategy reinforces the idea that education in Europe should be improved in order to boost productivity and combat inequalities and poverty. Europe can only recover from the crisis if people have the skills enabling them to contribute to "smart growth". Education therefore has to be adapted to the economic and social challenges of the future. It concerns all stages of life, from pre-school to higher and adult education and different educational settings – formal, non-formal and informal.
How can young people be better integrated into the labour market? How can we meet the challenges of lifelong learning? How can the skills of older workers be improved and their potential better harnessed? These are some of the questions we want to look at during the conference.