By Stefanos Evripidou
OUTGOING EU Education and Culture Commissioner Androulla Vassiliouo Friday hailed the increase in spending on young people and education across Europe at a time of decreasing budgets.
The Cypriot commissioner, whose five-year term in office ends this month, presented an account of her work in Brussels at an event in Nicosia.
She argued that education and culture were indispensable assets for Europe and Cyprus and required investment.
Vassiliou highlighted the significant increase achieved in the funding of programmes and activities that will benefit young people, teachers, schools, universities, artists and creative artists all over Europe, constituting a major success, if one considers the EU budget recorded a 3.5 per cent decrease.
One of the most important milestones achieved during Vassiliou’s mandate is considered to be the Erasmus+ programme.
“With a budget of nearly €15bn for the next seven years and an increase of 40 per cent compared to the period 2007-2014, Erasmus+ will provide four million people the opportunity to study, work, train and offer voluntary service abroad over the next seven years,” said a European Commission announcement.
For the year 2014, Cyprus will receive over €8.6m – an increase of 14 per cent compared to 2013. The Commission calculates that 15,000 Cypriot citizens (students, young people and staff in education and training) will benefit from Erasmus+ over the period 2014-2020; 50 per cent more than in 2007-2014.
Vassiliou also highlighted the inclusion of education at the heart of the Europe 2020 Strategy – the roadmap for the EU for the next six years.
Binding targets were set for reducing the number of early school leavers (from 14 per cent in 2010 to below 10 per cent by 2020) and increasing the number of young people completing higher education (from 33 per cent to 40 per cent).
Cyprus has already reached these objectives, since the school drop-out rate is 9.1 per cent, while the rate of young people completing higher education is 47.8 per cent.
Vassiliou pointed out the closer ties during her term in office between the Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with the aim of improving the analysis of educational surveys.
While Cyprus’ results in the OECD surveys have been low, the Cypriot commissioner said she was pleased to see the education minister intends to evaluate these results and take corrective action.
Elsewhere, the Creative Europe programme will allocate €1.5bn for the period 2014-2020 (an increase of 9 per cent compared to the previous period), aiming to support 25,000 European artists, 2,000 cinemas, 800 films and 4,500 translations of literary works.
The Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, equipped with a total budget of €6bn for the period 2014-2020 (a 30 per cent increase from the last period), will help 65,000 researchers to work abroad and cooperate with researchers from other countries.