On 30 November 1995, the European Commission presented its White Paper on "Teaching and Learning: Towards the Learning Society", which will be submitted to the European Heads of State and Government at the Madrid European Council. The White Paper has been drawn up at the instigation of Mrs. Edith Cresson, Commissioner responsible for research, education and training, Mr. Padraig Flynn, Commissioner for social affairs, and in agreement with Mr. Martin Bangemann, Commissioner for industrial affairs, information and telecommunications technologies. Following on from the Cannes European Council of June 1995, which stressed that "training and apprenticeship policies, which are fundamental for improving employment and competitiveness, must be strengthened, especially through continuing training", this White Paper offers the vision of a European "learning" society in which the emphasis is on the acquisition of information and know-how and in which teaching and learning are pursued throughout life. The rapid development of the Information Society, the internationalization of the economy and the relentless pace of scientific and technical progress, are everywhere generating new requirements in terms of skills and knowledge. Within this context, the European Commission has identified five specific areas in which action needs to be taken: - The development of a system of accreditation for technical and vocational skills, which could take the form of "personal skills cards". This scheme would allow an immediate assessment of people's qualifications throughout their lives; - Bringing the education and business sectors closer together through the development of apprenticeship, in particular networking of apprenticeship centres in different countries, encouragement of mobility along the lines of the ERASMUS programme, and introduction of a European apprentice's charter; - Combating exclusion, by providing a second chance for young people who failed to make it through the conventional school system. This may be done by redeploying complementary European funding from existing programmes such as SOCRATES and LEONARDO DA VINCI in support of national or local funding. This "second chance" scheme has been successfully tested in the USA, with the "accelerated schools" project, and in Israel with the "Alyat Hanoar" institution; - Promoting proficiency in three Community languages: for example through the creation of a "School of Europe" quality label which would be bestowed upon those schools which have pursued language learning to greatest effect; - Increasing recognition of financial investment in training: a change of approach as to how expenditure on training is viewed in taxation and accounting terms is needed. It should, for example, be made possible for firms investing heavily in training to have part of such investment written into their balance sheets as intangible assets. A wide-ranging debate will be instigated in 1996 - the European Year of Lifelong Learning - around all the issues raised in this White Paper. The Commission will take stock of the results of this debate at the end of 1996 and then submit its proposals for future action.
Policy making and guidelines
14 March 1997