Eurobarometer survey on European Area of Skills and Competencies

eurobarometerEurobarometer is a Europe wide public opinion survey that has been conducted since 1973 to monitor views on issues such as: social situation, health, culture, defence and so forth.

Occasionally, special surveys are also launched for more detailed analysis on a specific subject or topic.

Earlier this year, a special Eurobarometer survey was conducted on the question of “European area of Skills and Competencies”, a public consultation has recently been finished (view summary of consultation results here).

The report that summarises the main findings from the Eurobarometer survey was launched in June. The backdrop for the report are the recent developments of introducing instruments for transparency and recognition of qualifications, in essence the construction of the European Area of Skills and Competencies.

The themes in the survey include skills obtained in education and training, attitudes towards various aspects of education and training, studying abroad, documentation of skills and qualifications and flexible learning pathways, career guidance an the extent to which citizens seek for information on these issues.

Regarding the skills obtained, most view basic skills as most important, with some socio-demographic differences – the higher the level of education, the more likely people are to value specialized skills. Younger people are also likely to view foreign languages as more important, but this is also most widely considered a skill that can be obtained outside of formal education. Furthermore, the better educated people are, the more likely they are to think that languages can be learned outside of formal education. Workplace was considered by most as the arena to obtain skills outside of formal education.

One of the key findings was that most Europeans feel that education and training does provide them with relevant skills for the labour market, this is applicable for 73% of the respondents. At the same time, the 23% who disagree with this is nevertheless a considerable amount of people. The countries with highest level of dissatisfaction are Greece and Spain, unsurprisingly also countries that have had very high unemployment rates during the economic crisis, as those unemployed generally report high dissatisfaction. In general, the higher educated people are, the more relevant they find their education.

Regarding what people consider as important for education, teacher skills are considered most important – both in terms of ability to motivate as well as subject expertise. Former was also considered to be an aspect that most chose as an area that needed improvement.

Only 15% report that study abroad expeiences are important, this being the option that was chosen least. Even in cases where respndents had experience with study abroad, it was only 20% of them who chose this as important for education. Furthermore, this was also an area that was chosen least as an area that needed improvement.

There were generally positive views on the quality of education, including also vocational education – 83% of those who had obtained vocational education evaluated the quality as good. High satisfaction rates with quality can also be identified on higher education level, those most happy with the quality of their higher education can be found in Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Cyprus, and there is a general tendency that new EU countries are more critical of the quality of higher education, even if the overall picture is also rather positive (62% report good experience with higher education).

While online education is a big buzz word now, this was in fact the area where lest positive views about quality were reported. At the same time, it should be noted this is also a mode of delivery with great variety.

There appears to be reasonably high level of caution with respect to recognition of qualifications – only in average 56% think their diploma would be recognized abroad, and as many as one in three in Lativia and Bulgaria presume their degrees would not be recognized. As with many other factors, the higher education people have, the more secure they are about heir degree being recognized. Furthermore, those with higher education are also much more likely to have studied, had an internship/traineeship or worked abroad. At the same time, only 6% report problems with having tried to work/study abroad and not succeeded, and as such it appears that there are no significant barriers.

While instruments such as the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) are high on the agenda in European and national policy debates, only 21% report of having heard of the EQF (and only 9% know where their qualification would fit), while the numbers are generally higher for those in the age group 25-39 and amongst those with higher education. This suggests that despite a rather significant amount of work done to establish National Qualifications Frameworks across Europe, the instrument has not quite reached its users yet. The instruments that are best known for documenting skills and qualifications are Europass and Diploma supplements.

Download the whole report here.

The results can also be viewed on a country basis by downloading factsheets for each country  (Ref # 417 here).