On 30 May 2017, at the occasion of the Conference ‘Education in Europe: Public Investment, Privatisation and Reforms: What role do education trade unions play?’, ETUCE released the research report and the practical guide for education trade unions to strengthen their involvement on the European Semester, thus concluding the two years project ‘Investing in Education: Strengthening the involvement of teacher trade unions in the European Semester on Education and Training’. The report, titled: ‘Education and Training Policy in the European Semester – Public Investment, Public Policy, Social Dialogue and Privatisation patterns across Europe’, is the result of a two years research conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, on behalf of ETUCE. Alongside the research report, ETUCE published an on-line toolkit “Practical Guide for an effective involvement of education trade unions in the European Semester on education and training”, with the aim of supporting ETUCE member organisations in their strategies to influence the various phases of the Semester.

The research report was commissioned with the aim of providing an evidence-based insight into the impact of the European Semester on education and training policies across Europe, the involvement of education trade unions in policy and reform making and the changing nature of investment in education. The report has explored the link between the European Semester and education policy in EU Member States. The report is based on research conducted between March 2016 and March 2017, and the principal data sources are: project seminars, interviews, survey conducted to establish the views and experiences of ETUCE member organisations and document analysis.

The report’s main findings are the following:

  1. Public investment in education: The research report provides evidence that investment in education continue to lag behind. The paradox is that an area of public investment seen as central to driving recovery continues to suffer with the potential to impact on growth and employment.
  2. The role of the education-related Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) within the Semester process - The focus on fiscal surveillance and the dominance of economic issues in the Semester process have a significant impact on education-related CSRs, despite the important social dimension embedded in the EU2020 Strategy.
  3. The extent of social dialogue in relation to the Semester process - Despite the notable impact of the CSRs for shaping education policy across European countries, the research report reveals a ‘democratic deficit’ in policy making. There is a disconnect between the importance of education issues in the Semester process, the European Commission’s commitment to social dialogue within the process and the actual experience of education unions, who report limited engagement
  4. The perception and experience of privatisation in and of education across Europe - Survey respondent reported significant ‘internal privatisation’ in the statutory sector education, in which private sector and business practices are common, thus revealing widespread forms of hidden and creeping privatisation. Non-statutory aspects of education (Early Childhood Education, Technical Vocational Education and Training and Higher Education and Research) represent a mix of public and private provision. However, Higher Education stands out as that part of education systems most exposed to privatisation pressure.

These findings are to contribute and to support education trade unions across Europe in their struggle for quality education for all based on increased public investment in education, and for professional expertise of teachers to be inserted into the policy and reform making.