Considerable progress has been achieved worldwide to get the attention of policy makers for the importance of education. The past two decades have seen great progress, particularly in enrolling children in school and keeping them within the education system. But many challenges still remain, particularly in preparing these young people for the world of work. Changes in technology, labour market patterns and the general global environment all require constant adjustments. Young people increasingly need to develop skills and approaches that can make them more flexible and innovative to deal with a constantly evolving environment.
The European Union has been at the forefront of the development of education systems which provide all young people the best possible start in life and the specific skills to perform in our increasingly competitive world. As an example, this year Erasmus+, the EU's most successful programme, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. It is a priority for us to offer even more possibilities for Georgian and other Eastern Partnership students to benefit from Erasmus+. Therefore we have proposed to increase the corresponding budget.
In 2016, 4,100 Eastern Partnership students and academic staff have been supported to study, teach or follow training in the European Union, out of which 990 from Georgia. At the same time, around 8,900 young people and youth workers from the neighbouring countries have taken part in non-formal education projects such as exchanges, training and volunteering (6,700 from EaP, including 1,600 from Georgia).
Also, Education and Youth are a focus of the Eastern Partnership deliverables. Youth leadership and entrepreneurship will be fostered through a new EU4Youth initiative, which will aim to provide support to 100 youth organisations. Over 20,000 new students and academic staff will have studied, taught or been trained thanks to Erasmus+ mobility opportunities by 2020. All these efforts will support broader skills development actions.
We are supporting the commitment and efforts of our Georgian partners in modernising vocational education and training and labour market/employment systems to improve the employability of the Georgian population. Support to education in Georgia is becoming an even higher priority in EU-Georgia cooperation.
Building on the shared vision of the Government of Georgia and the European Commission on the importance of education, we have agreed that an "Eastern Partnership European School" will be established in Tbilisi. This ambitious project is a flagship project in the context of the Eastern Partnership. It is one of the key deliverables for the Eastern Partnership up to 2020 which aim at creating palpable benefits for people in Georgia and the region.
The objective of the European School is to create a beacon of excellence for pupils from Georgia and the other Eastern Partner Countries. Students of the European School – which will be a secondary school – will receive an internationally recognised degree. Classes would be provided in English and students would have the opportunity to attend different European language courses. The European School will promote European values as well as cooperation and understanding within the region. It will also provide students with a better understanding of the EU and its engagement in Georgia and in the entire region through dedicated courses and activities. Thus, the European School will become an important element in bringing the Eastern Partnership countries closer to the EU. It will help Georgia to exploit the full potential of the recently gained visa liberalisation. We are eager to translate our joint vision into action and to welcome the first students in the very near future!
Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations