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The Commission has published a Communication on “Improving and Modernising Education” this week. Therein it demands high quality education for all and submits proposals, which, in view of the once more weak Austrian performance in PISA 2016, might definitely be of interest.

To begin with, the Commission establishes in its Communication that education is the building block for social cohesion and an open society. Apart from that, a good (vocational) education increases employability; hence, the still high number of young people, who leave school early without formal qualifications, would be even more alarming.

Due to technological change, in particular with regard to an advancing digitalisation, the dust has to be shaken off the curricula, and especially teachers have to be enabled to convey digital competences. Digital technologies also open new ways of learning. This is confirmed by a current study of the Chamber of Labour Vienna, which shows that schools and training companies do not put enough emphasis on teaching digital competences; hence, resulting in a digital divide between young people.

The Commission also emphasises that spending on education would be an investment in the future, that it promotes growth and that it has the potential to ensure more social fairness. However, it also points out that higher spending on education does not automatically lead to better results. Looking at the Austrian PISA results, one has to agree.

Where, according to the Commission, would it be best to invest resources? First and foremost in early child education – it would be the most effective and efficient instrument against social inequality and it would provide a solid foundation for acquiring competences and skills during a person's entire life. Another benefit is a very positive effect on employment - a realisation, which in case of Austria already has been documented with figures.

However, the Commission also submits recommendations for the school sector – particular emphasis has been put on the demand for a balanced relationship between accountability and school autonomy and the support of teaching staff and headteachers resulting from it.

The Communication by the Commission voices some concern for the higher education sector. It refers to the discrepancy between what is currently taught in institutions of higher education and what future graduates require for entering into professional life successfully. The key factor for enhancing the quality in the higher education sector would be an improvement in teaching. That is why the Commission is planning a package for higher education, which includes several initiatives, which is to be launched in 2017.

The modernisation and improvement of education is not only worth supporting in all sectors, which have been addressed, but also urgently required. Surprisingly, the Commission’s Communication does not address the clear gender gap, which is not only an Austrian problem, or the strongly diverging access to education and its success by different ethnical groups in Europe. A challenge, which should be called by its name and targeted ...