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1 summary fiche The European Social Fund: education and lifelong learning

2 Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on behalf of the Commission may be held responsible for the use that may be made of the information contained in this publication. Europe Direct is a service to help you find answers to your questions about the European Union Freephone number (*): (*) Certain mobile telephone operators do not allow access to numbers or these calls may be billed. A great deal of additional information on the European Union is available on the Internet. It can be accessed through the Europa server ( European Union, 2010 Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged. Printed in Belgium PRINTED ON WHITE CHLORINE-FREE PAPER IMPORTANT NOTE The information in this brochure is taken from a broader study, produced by Bernard Brunhes International (BBI, under the contract Reporting on ESF interventions in the EU. The background report The European Social Fund: education and lifelong learning was drafted by Donal McAnaney and Mark Delmartino in co-operation with João Nunes and the support of BBI s team of researchers. The document is available in English at

3 Education and Lifelong Learning in the European Union Education is a basic human right. Across Europe it constitutes an important part of each person s life. Traditionally education has been about transmitting knowledge. Nowadays learning opportunities emphasise the development of individual capabilities and personal competences. At the heart of the lifelong learning concept is the idea of enabling and encouraging people to learn how to learn. Education and lifelong learning play an important role in achieving the economic, employment and social goals of both Member States and the EU. The responsibility for education, training and lifelong learning policies lies with the Member States. The EU s role is to support the improvement of national systems by providing complementary tools, and by facilitating mutual learning and the exchange of good practice. The Lisbon strategy calls for Member States to develop and implement durable lifelong learning strategies. It also places a strong emphasis on the role of vocational education and training, alongside general and higher education. Policy cooperation on education and training has supported national reforms of lifelong learning and qualification systems, the modernisation of higher education and the development of European instruments promoting quality, transparency of qualifications and mobility in learning. One of the main tools to realise these EU commitments is the European Social Fund (ESF). It supports and complements the activities of Member States by promoting and improving training, education and counselling as part of a lifelong learning policy to facilitate people s integration into the labour market and maintain the employability of the workforce. 1

4 The European Social Fund in a Nutshell The European Social Fund is devoted to promoting employment in the EU. It helps Member States make Europe s workforce and companies better equipped to face new and global challenges. It co-finances interventions supported by national public and private funds. The ESF strategy and budget is negotiated and decided between the EU Member States represented in the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and the Commission. On this basis, seven-year Operational Programmes (OPs) are planned by Member States and approved by the European Commission. Operational Programmes : total expenditure claimed (in million) per Member State (situation on 2 September 2008) Member State Expenditure Member State Expenditure Austria 1,326 Latvia 115 Belgium 2,416 Lithuania 166 Cyprus 22 Luxembourg 47 Czech Republic 297 Malta 9 Denmark 779 Poland 1,776 Estonia 71 Portugal 7,145 Finland 2,365 Slovakia 241 France 12,204 Slovenia 60 Germany 20,930 Spain 17,388 Greece 4,783 Sweden 2,661 Hungary 288 The Netherlands 2,458 Ireland 1,778 United Kingdom 13,285 Italy 12,909 The above interventions and expenditure do not cover the EQUAL Community Initiative which was also funded by the ESF in

5 ESF Facts and Figures Most information in this brochure relates to the period In 2000, the ESF was open to the then 15 EU Member States. Additional programmes started in 2004 to accommodate the priorities of 10 new Member States. A few figures to illustrate the size of the ESF interventions: ESF Over 200 OPs together spent a total of 105 billion (until September 2008): just over half ( 54 billion) was paid for by the ESF, while the difference was invested by the public ( 45 billion) and private ( 6 billion) sectors in the Member States. More than 75 million people benefited directly from ESF activities. This corresponds to 24% of the total population between 16 and 64 years in the EU. ESF is committed to equal opportunities. Overall, the involvement in ESF was balanced: 52% of the participants were women and 48% men. ESF helps prepare young people to find suitable work: 37% of all participants were between 16 and 25 years old. ESF supports initiatives to keep people in the labour market, in particular when workers are getting older: seven percent of ESF participants were over 55 years old. Overall, 54% of ESF participants were unemployed, 38% were employed and 8% were inactive, i.e. not readily available to get and stay in a job. Evaluations and monitoring data show that between 40 to 80% (approximately half on average) of the unemployed participants found employment within 12 months of completing an intervention. ESF Preliminary data available on the current programmes show that at least 6 million people have already benefited from ESF supported interventions in 2007 and % of these participants belong to vulnerable groups, such as migrants, minorities, people with disabilities, Roma, etc. 3

6 Defining the Scope of Education and Lifelong Learning Interventions in ESF The ESF is supporting a wide variety of interventions in education, training and lifelong learning investing both in the individual s human capital through formal education, vocational education and training, continuing education and lifelong learning (LLL), and in education and LLL systems and structures. Ten Member States spent 11.4 billion of ESF, national and private funds to support more than 10 million people between 2000 and 2006 through measures essentially aiming at formal education - at primary, secondary and third level including doctoral programmes. These interventions broadened learning opportunities for people with special educational needs, reduced early school leaving and raised levels of educational attainment. They also widened participation in higher education. In addition, some of these measures aimed at enhancing the knowledge and skill base in research, science and technology. Under the programmes, 24 Member States are using ESF to support formal education activities. 18 Member States invested 21.2 billion of ESF, national and private funds in measures in the field of vocational education and training (VET), to the final benefit of more than 14 million people between 2000 and The VET activities supported by ESF created new learning opportunities relevant to the needs of the labour market, improved the qualifications and employability of jobseekers, supported economic cohesion and promoted equal opportunities. Such VET actions were often combined with other interventions to support regional and local economic development and to combat social exclusion. Under the programmes, 20 Member States are developing VET initiatives with the help of ESF. 22 Member States used 17.9 billion of ESF, national and private funds to promote continuing education and lifelong learning for workers with no, low and/or outdated skills, as well as to atypical learners who have problems attending formal education or training. These measures reached 15.5 million people between 2000 and The ESF funded initiatives in this field upgraded the occupational skills of workers, protected their employability and improved the competitiveness of enterprises. As a result, many people retained their jobs or found new employment and were able to extend their working lives. All 27 Member States are addressing continuing education and lifelong learning in the current programming period. 4

7 The ESF also contributed to the improvement of education and lifelong learning systems and structures. Between 2000 and 2006 the ESF structural investments were to the benefit of 3 million people and uncounted systems and structures in 14 Member States. The overall expenditure claimed (ESF, national and private funds) amounted 4.7 billion. The targeted interventions brought about more effective procedures and methods to deliver learning opportunities, the creation of networks between the business world, education and research, as well as better systems for accrediting competences. Since 2007, 26 Member States have been making efforts to enhance their education and lifelong learning systems with the support of ESF. There are a number of so called broad spectrum interventions in which formal education, VET, continuing education, lifelong learning and system enhancement have been addressed in a coordinated manner. Insight: Latvia - A comprehensive approach to developing education and lifelong learning The Latvian ESF programme adopted a broad approach to education and lifelong learning. Ranging from secondary to higher and post-graduate education, interventions included: the development of new and updated courses; improved methods and teaching quality in natural science, technology and mathematics; improved higher professional programmes and doctoral level programmes; LLL networks and links between social partners and educational institutions; IT skills, e-learning, distance education. The programme featured a total of 70,000 participants, including about 58,000 students and 10,000 teachers. 53,000 students gained a qualification, while 3,800 teachers completed training in career counselling services. 5

8 ESF Support to Education and Lifelong Learning at a Glance Almost 33 million participants - more than 5 million per year - were involved in ESF-supported education and lifelong learning programmes between 2000 and Half of these participants were women. More than 9 million participants in 16 Member States were involved in education and lifelong learning programmes addressing social exclusion. Member States have reported that they invested almost 44 billion in education and lifelong learning activities, of which more than 29 billion was paid for by ESF. In absolute figures, Germany, the UK, Portugal and Italy spent most. Malta, Portugal, Ireland and the Netherlands dedicated the highest proportion of their ESF expenditure to education and lifelong learning. When preparing for the current ESF period , Member States indicated they would use almost 30 billion of ESF funding (not counting national or private sources) for education and lifelong learning actions. Available data on the years 2007 and 2008 indicate that 4.5 million participants were already involved in interventions that related exclusively or partially to education and lifelong learning. All Member States are using ESF co-financing to improve their education, training and lifelong learning systems and to enhance the knowledge, skills and competences of individual young, old, employed, unemployed and disadvantaged men and women. Additionally, the ESF aid is put to use for the development of lifelong learning strategies in EU Member States. Overall, about 40% of all ESF actions, finances and participants in the previous and the current programming period are concerned with education and lifelong learning. 6

9 ESF Enhances Opportunities for Lifelong Learning While European countries perform rather well in education and training at a global level, there are still inequities in the education systems, as well as wide divergences between individual Member States. The EU therefore set five European benchmarks in education areas where progress is needed. The benchmark for lifelong learning states that by 2020, 15% of the adult population should participate in lifelong learning. Between 2000 and 2008, the participation in adult education has risen from 7.1% to 9.5%. The financial support from the ESF has contributed extensively to the development of lifelong learning strategies and opportunities in the Member States. The ESF has tackled many obstacles to the demand for, and supply of, lifelong learning opportunities across Europe: reducing the cost of training for agencies and employers; raising awareness on the benefits of LLL and its relevance for career development; providing basic skills to school drop-outs and low-skilled people by facilitating their participation in LLL; creating a learning culture in enterprises where employers were unwilling to support learning activities among employees; encouraging governments and public authorities to overcome their reluctance and support LLL; expanding the range of courses, programmes and non-formal learning opportunities; creating more effective systems of information and guidance on LLL opportunities; supporting the training of trainers and establishing quality standards for delivery; validating formal, non-formal, informal and prior learning and increasing the transparency of qualifications; developing new learning systems with flexible delivery methods when existing systems lacked flexible learning times, locations and modes of delivery. 7

10 ESF Responds to Early School Leaving 13 Member States used ESF funding to prevent early school leaving, reaching more than 6.7 million people. Interventions aimed to reduce the dropout rate from mainstream education and prevent academic failure. The issue was addressed at three levels simultaneously: the school, the family and the individual. Actions were implemented both within and outside the school system to provide early school leavers with the opportunity to access basic and vocational training in order to integrate in the labour market. Cooperation between schools, training bodies and local public institutions was often a critical success factor. Insight: Ireland - School Completion, Progression and Youthreach initiatives Between 2000 and 2006, the Irish Employment and Human Resources Development programme put in place a continuum of initiatives to promote school completion for over 100,000 learners between 4 and 18 years in primary and secondary schools. More than 400 schools were trained to tackle early school leaving. The programme also provided more than 20,000 early school leavers with the skills to progress to work. Learners with low retention rates were targeted through support initiatives in school, after school, during holiday time, at home, in the family and in the community. School dropouts received different types of training to gain relevant skills, progress to further training and to make the transition to work. The support through second chance education included personal skills development, building self confidence, as well as basic education and training in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and core skills. 8

11 Vocational Education and Training in Information and Communications Technology Almost 8.5 million people in 19 Member States benefited from ESF supported training in Information and Communications Technology. Numerous projects used distance training and web-based e-learning to have people access vocational training independently of their current personal circumstances or work conditions and gain a qualification. Alternative delivery methods were developed to improve access to training, change attitude towards learning and entrepreneurship, and create programmes more closely matching the needs of local and regional enterprises. Innovative non-class-based forms of learning including Accreditation of Prior Learning were made available to low skilled workers, women returning to the labour market and people in regions in need of development. Insight: Hungary - Developing and providing basic qualifications to adults The Human Resources Development programme in Hungary used ESF support to organise adult training and consolidate open and informal education by promoting new, non-class-based forms of education. The measure targeted adults without primary or secondary school qualifications and offered them the opportunity to obtain these qualifications in age appropriate contexts. More than 4,200 persons - of which 2,500 were women - gained a qualification, allowing them to access other types of vocational education and training. About 160 curricula were designed, some of which used new information and communication technologies or flexible learning methods to upgrade the skills of the working age population. 9

12 ESF Helps Develop Systems of National Qualification 3.3 million people in 14 Member States benefited from ESF support to national qualification systems, training standards and systems of accreditation. National Qualifications Frameworks have been developed and are validating the competences and skills that people acquired through formal education and vocational training. Competence-based national qualification systems such as the one presented in the insight below were set up to recognise the skills acquired by workers, unemployed, students and adult learners. Insight: Greece - Strengthening the accreditation system for vocational training The Greek programme on employment promotion and vocational training consolidated the national accreditation system for continuing vocational training. Implementing bodies such as vocational training centres and social integration centres for disadvantaged people were modernised. Activities included: the accreditation of continuing vocational training providers and trainers; the establishment of monitoring and evaluation systems; the creation of a register of accredited trainers; the training of continuing vocational trainers; the upgrading of skills for staff administering the accreditation system. 10

13 Extending Working Life and Building Organisational Capacity 10.6 million people in 24 Member States benefited from ESF supported in-company training. Providing access to learning opportunities through their places of work helped people and organisations cope with change and restructuring. The activities moreover strengthened the competitiveness of companies, increased the skills of both workers and managers and eventually extended their working lives. The ESF also encouraged innovation and technology transfer through the development of learning partnerships between universities and enterprises. Insight: Finland - Integration of education, training and working life The ESF Objective 3 programme in Finland contained one comprehensive continuing training measure which aimed to raise the age of retirement and increase the availability of relevant qualifications and skills in the labour market. The programme focused notably on the training and qualification of older people thereby improving their labour market mobility. New models of continuing training were introduced to: develop work-life skills relevant to a rapidly changing labour market; link training to working life; develop forecasting, information and guidance services; support self-directed training leading to qualifications; create opportunities for job rotation; provide ICT training and apprenticeships. More than 45,000 participants were involved and more than 30,000 completed the programme. 19,000 beneficiaries obtained a degree or qualification, of which more than 8,000 people were older than 40. The programme also introduced an interactive information and guidance system for almost 9,000 enterprises, training and education services. 11

14 European Social Fund : Investing in people In the current programming period , the ESF has a budget of 76 billion to co-finance 117 Operational Programmes in all 27 Member States. National public and private funds amount to a further 41 billion. The interventions supported are in the fields of: (i) adaptability of workers and enterprises; (ii) access to employment and inclusion in the labour market; (iii) social inclusion of disadvantaged people; (iv) reform in education and training systems; (v) good governance, partnership and the involvement of social partners. The map shows that ESF supports activities across all 27 Member States under two Objectives. Additional priorities in the so-called Convergence regions are: (i) lifelong learning and research and innovation; (ii) capacity building of public administrations and services. Operational Programmes : total budget, i.e. including national co-financing, (in million) per Member State Member State Budget Member State Budget Austria 1,184 Latvia 657 Belgium 2,320 Lithuania 1,210 Bulgaria 1,395 Luxembourg 50 Cyprus 150 Malta 132 Czech Republic 4,436 Poland 11,420 Denmark 510 Portugal 9,210 Estonia 462 Romania 4,335 Finland 1,420 Slovakia 1,764 France 10,275 Slovenia 889 Germany 15,666 Spain 11,426 Greece 5,726 Sweden 1,383 Hungary 4,270 The Netherlands 1,705 Ireland 1,360 United Kingdom 8,598 Italy 15,321 12

15 ESF Investing in your future The level of ESF funding differs from one region to another depending on their relative wealth. EU regions are divided into four categories, based on their regional GDP per head compared to the EU average (EU with 27 or 15 Member States). Convergence regions: with a GDP per head of less than 75% of the EU-27 average Phasing-out regions: with a GDP per head of more than 75% of the EU-27 average but less than 75% of the EU-15 average Phasing-in regions: with a GDP per head of less than 75% of the EU-15 average (in the period ) but more than 75% of the EU-15 average (in the period ) Competitiveness and employment regions: applies to all other EU regions Position as of January 2007 EuroGeographics Association for the administrative bounderies

16 What ESF does for you ESF: active labour market policies and public employment services ESF: adaptability of enterprises and continuing training of workers ESF: developing human potential in research and innovation ESF and labour mobility ESF: education and lifelong learning ESF: women, gender mainstreaming and reconciliation of work and private life ESF and Roma ESF: sustainable development and eco technologies ESF: migrants and minorities ESF: urban areas and local employment ESF and older workers ESF and health ESF and entrepreneurship ESF and young people ESF and disabled ESF and institutional capacity ESF and social inclusion ESF and equality mainstreaming ESF and social partners ESF support to building partnerships ESF and culture Check the latest on these publications at

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