The Spanish Minister of Education, Ángel Gabilondo, speaking in the Culture, Education and Youth Committee of the European Parliament, insisted on the importance of strengthening the idea of a Social Europe by means of a new link between the economy and education, one of the basic pillars of the Spanish Presidency’s proposals in the area of education.

Education and training should be “engines for European development and social well-being”, said the Minister, adding that “research and innovation are the basic pillars of the new knowledge society” to which must be added “the new pillar of the social dimension and social responsibility at all levels of education”.

To reach these goals, investment in education must be increased, using “sufficient, transparent, efficient and fair” financing models.

Gabilondo stressed that the Spanish Presidency will be working towards four objectives: making continuous learning and mobility a reality; improving the quality and efficacy of education and training; promoting fairness, social cohesion and active civic responsibility, and reinforcing creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit at all the levels of education.

He also said he was convinced that “the best social policy is education”, meaning that “equal opportunities in accessing education and social cohesion will be the hallmarks” of the work to be carried out over the next six months.

“We should promote inclusion and diversity, and work harder to integrate people who come from other countries, in order to prevent conflict and also to ensure future economic and social well-being in the face of the ageing of the European population”, he stated.

In terms of adapting education to suit labour market needs, Minister Gabilondo said that community policy priorities in vocational training would be renewed during the term of the Spanish Presidency, with the aim of increasing mobility and facilitating access to new learning models, such as skills acquired from work experience and through non-formal training channels.

The internationalisation of higher education and the modernisation of universities will also be among the top priorities of the Spanish Presidency, which has made a decisive commitment to the Bologna Process and the creation of a European Higher Education Space.

“This is about creating equivalent, comparable and compatible systems, that are not necessarily identical, to facilitate recognition and mobility”, the minister pointed out.

“Together with these agreements, convergence requires university policies to be in tune with each other: more autonomy for the universities; demanding assessment systems; greater and more diversified sources of university financing, more transparent university management; greater student and lecturer mobility; greater fairness in the system and the opening up of the universities to society”, he listed.

Ángel Gabilondo finished by asking the European Members of Parliament to respond to the “call of millions of people in the EU who are asking us for more education, more progress and more well-being in order to face Europe’s future challenges”.