Policy themes

The activities of the NESET II network encompass various topics related to the social dimension of education and training. Topics taken into consideration include education curricula, the gender aspect in education, ethnicity, parental involvement, adult education, vocational training, etc.

The list of 15 policy themes provides an overview of the main areas covered by the Network. These themes form the policy-informing thematic content of the Network’s activities and discuss the fields of education policy which are the most important in reducing poverty and enhancing equity and social inclusion in Europe.

As regards the NESET II website, the policy themes can be utilised in the database of researchers to filter and search the experts working on the social aspects of education and training.

Nevertheless, it is evident that the list provided is not finite, as even more aspects to the issue can be identified, particularly in the context of the ever-growing knowledge base. In you notice any relevant omissions or detect important elements that have not been considered, please contact us at info.neset2@ppmi.lt.

Policy themes:

Funding and governance of education and training

Governance is an essential component in creating enabling conditions for quality learning and tackling inequalities in education, while funding of education is an important element of it. It is important to achieve effective governance and smart investment at all levels of education.

Content of education and training curricula, development of key competences

The European Commission recognises several key competences that education systems should develop. Key competences are necessary for individual personal fulfilment and development, employment and a functional social and cultural life. The acquisition of key competences should be the focus of all levels of education curricula and serve as the basis for its development.

Vulnerable groups in education and training

All European education systems are, to a greater or lesser extent, marked by inequalities. Socioeconomic background, disability, ethnic or migrant status, gender, geographic location and other factors still impact strongly on people’s educational opportunities, learning experiences and educational outcomes. Policies to remedy these disparities are needed.

Gender, sexual identities

Although important progress has been made, gender inequalities and discrimination based on sexual identity continue to represent unresolved issues in European educational systems. Male and female students across all levels and sectors of education continue to be segregated in terms of performance, choice of education fields and ascribed gender roles.

Disability/special needs, inclusive education

Education systems throughout Europe face several key challenges in promoting inclusive education as regards embracing diversity and ensuring access and support in mainstream education for persons with special needs. They continue to face public prejudice and legal, financial, administrative and physical barriers in educational establishments which prevent them from fully benefiting from education and participating in society.

Education and migration

Increasing global migration is identified by many as the major driver of growing diversity in schools and society at large. Declining birth rates among natives in migrant-receiving countries in conjunction with growing international mobility are expected to further increase diversity in the years to come. As a result, most European Union countries are struggling to address rapidly increasing learner diversity in their education systems, ensure non-discrimination, equality of access and achievement for all school-age children.

Ethnicity and non-discrimination

Various forms of discrimination, in particular on the grounds of ethnic origin, still prevail. For example, ethnic origin remains the most widely perceived grounds for discrimination in the EU. This poses a threat to the implementation of fundamental rights including the right to education for all.

Early school leaving

Reducing early school leaving improves the efficiency of education, but it is also highly relevant to the equity objective of ET2020. Early school leaving exemplifies the role of education in perpetuating or breaking cycles of disadvantage: young people from a disadvantaged background or with special educational needs are over-represented amongst early school leavers, who in later life are exposed to heightened risks of unemployment, poverty and social exclusion.

Widening participation in higher education

Increased higher education attainment rates are vital if Member States are to achieve higher employment levels, productivity and growth. In contrast with their low-skilled peers, higher education graduates in Europe have consistently fared better even in the most crisis-hit economies, with lower rates of unemployment across the continent. In order to improve attainment levels, Member States need to increase participation in higher education from all social groups, including the most disadvantaged.

Parental involvement and family support

Parental involvement in a child’s learning process from the early years to high school remains among the key factors contributing to a child’s success in school and life. It is widely associated with better learning outcomes, school improvement and lower risk of early school leaving and greater educational aspirations.

Monitoring for equity in education and training

An important dimension for tackling educational disadvantage is monitoring – monitoring that is accurate, regular, and integrated into practice. Monitoring is a valuable strategy when integrated in the daily routines of schools or individual and group practices that provide comparable information on education quality and success. However, Member States differ significantly in how developed and comprehensive their education monitoring systems are.

Education and training of professional workforce

There is a broad field of literature and research on professional staff in education – namely teachers, trainers, school leaders, guidance and counselling and support staff. It is often found that they make a significant difference to educational attainment and are among the key actors in improving the educational outcomes for disadvantaged learners. Nevertheless, there are shortages of qualified teachers in many European countries and the overall popularity and prestige of the teaching profession is declining.

Cross-sectorial working

There is a combination of personal, social, cultural and economic factors which can limit educational opportunities. Cross-sectoral approaches are, therefore, important to link education and training policies with those related to employment, the economy, social inclusion, youth, health, justice, housing and social services among other policies.

Vocational education and training, transitions to employment

Along with general education VET plays an important role in promoting social inclusion, equity and active citizenship, by addressing the education needs of children with disadvantaged social backgrounds who tend to be over-represented within vocational tracks of secondary education.

Equity and quality in adult education

Although the important role of adult learning for achieving sustainable personal, social, cultural and economic development is becoming increasingly recognised, implementation of successful policies lags behind the attitude shift. Nevertheless, quality of adult learning provision is one of the strategies to increase and widen participation in adult learning, but also to tackle problems such as drop‐out rates.