The risks and opportunities young people experience demand a cross-sectoral public youth policy that addresses the challenges and obstacles they face as they make the transition towards adulthood and that is based on the political objectives and guidelines adopted by local, regional, national or international bodies (Siurala 2005, p. 7). Education and training is a key dimension of young people's circumstances, experiences and transition pathways, and so it is also a key area for youth policies at all levels.

Youth policy in the field of education and training is approached from two perspectives: from the perspective of youth and young people, where youth policy addresses or refers to young people's learning; and from the perspective of other sectors and policy domains for which the education and training of young people is a major or a secondary concern – in the first instance in education, training and employment policies, but more broadly also in social, family and health policies.

At European level, the main policy makers in this field are the European Union institutions (Council, Parliament and Commission) and the Council of Europe (Directorate-General for Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport) as well as European youth NGOs, in particular through their representation in the European Youth Forum. Main cornerstones of EU policies in this field are the European Commission's White Paper "A new impetus for European Youth" (2001) and the education and training policies following up on the Lisbon strategy, in particular through the Education and Training 2010 agenda, both of which build on previous related policies and are the basis for ongoing policy development in this field. The Council of Europe's policy in this field is composed of a number of interrelated policies in the field of youth, education and training which have evolved since the 1970s. Most recent cornerstones are the resolution on the youth policy of the Council of Europe (2003), the recommendation on education for democratic citizenship (2002), the Declaration of the 8th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Youth (2008) and the resolution on the youth policy of the Council of Europe (2008).

European youth policies related to education and training reflect a strong connection between the main issues addressed: the promotion as well as the recognition of non-formal and informal education and learning on one hand and the promotion of participation, active and democratic citizenship, social inclusion, tolerance and cultural diversity on the other hand. This can be seen in the following overview:

Following wide-ranging consultation at national and European levels, the White Paper "A new impetus for European Youth" (2001) emphasised young Europeans as citizens in their own right, underlining autonomy and participation in the framework of active citizenship. With this document the European Commission created the conditions for more intensive cooperation in the field of youth policy within the European Union, highlighting the need for increased cooperation between Member States and better incorporation of the youth factor into sectoral policies, especially addressing the fields of education and training. Follow-up documents to the White Paper put the focus on the identification and organisation of existing knowledge, e.g. in the fields of non-formal and informal learning, education and training, employment and transition from education to employment (COM(2004)336), underlined the educational experience gained through non-formal learning in voluntary youth work (COM(2004)337) and outlined progress made for instance in the field of the recognition of the value of non-formal and informal education in youth activities (COM(2004)694). The importance of voluntary youth work, the eminent role of youth trainers and youth training in general has been highlighted by the European Youth Forum (2008).

The European Commission staff working paper "A Memorandum on lifelong learning" (2000) set some of the basic grounds for the further development of youth policies in education and training by addressing the need for lifelong learning and explicitly pointing to aspects of non-formal learning taking place e.g. in youth organisations, putting the question of recognising competencies gained in non-formal and informal contexts on the agenda and stressing the importance of the European youth programmes in supporting transnational co-operation, partnership and exchange (European Commission 2000). As part of the Education and Training 2010 agenda, a European reference framework for key competences for lifelong learning was established, defining eight key competences, including citizenship competence (European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2006/962/EC).

Especially the European youth programme "Youth" (2000-2006), integrating two preceding programmes: "Youth for Europe" and a European voluntary service for young people, now followed by the "Youth in Action" programme (2007-2013) reflect European youth policy as well as contribute to it's further development (European Parliament and Council of the European Union 2006). Within the context of the programme, 31 national agencies and eight resource centres, referred to as SALTO-YOUTH, reflect and implement youth policy, for instance through the improvement of the quality of training and the quality of projects and through promoting the recognition of non-formal learning, e.g. through Youthpass.

Equally, the youth programme of the Council of Europe reflects youth policy related to education and training. In particular, the priorities of the Council of Europe's youth sector (2006-2008) emphasise human rights education, citizenship education and quality of youth work training (Council of Europe 2005). This is also reflected in the priorities 2009 and 2010-2012 adopted by the Joint Council on Youth. The European Youth Centres in Strasbourg and Budapest and the European Youth Foundation (EYF) are important instruments for the Council of Europe's youth policy in this field with a long-standing tradition in non-formal education for young people.

Different aspects of non-formal education and training in the youth field, in particular training for European citizenship and quality and recognition of non-formal education are addressed by the Partnership on Youth between the Council of Europe and the European Commission, for instance through the implementation and evaluation of respective training courses, publications, etc.

A main issue addressed in European policies in this field is the recognition of non-formal education and of competences acquired through non-formal and informal learning in the youth field (Council of Europe Rec (2003)8; Council of the European Union 2004, 2006; European Commission and Council of Europe 2004). This is also reflected in various conferences on this theme, i.e. the Symposium on Non-Formal Education (Council of Europe 2001), the conference "Bridges for Recognition" (Bowyer 2005), the Partnership research seminar on recognising non-formal learning (Chisholm, Hoskins and Glahn 2005) and the expert workshop on the recognition of non-formal learning in the youth field "Continuing the Pathway towards Recognition" in 2008. First instruments for the promotion of recognition have been developed: a European Portfolio for youth educational advisers working in the context of non-formal education by the Council of Europe and Youthpass within the Youth in Action Programme of the European Union. The issue of recognition is linked to the increased emphasis given to quality in non-formal education and training in European youth, in particular in the youth programmes of the European Union and the Council of Europe mentioned above. This is elaborated in more detail in a recent reference document on this issue (Fennes and Otten 2008). Furthermore, quality and quality assurance of non-formal education are targeted by the European Youth Forum (2008) as well, proposing indicators and a quality assurance framework to be established by 2015.

The measures and actions proposed in the "European Youth Pact" by the European Council in March 2005 build on the European strategies for employment and social inclusion and on the "Education and training 2010" work programme (European Commission 2005). The main aim is "… to improve the instruction, training, mobility, employability and social inclusion of young Europeans, while facilitating the reconciliation of work and family life." (Council of the European Union 2005a, p. 19). In the review and adoption of the "European Youth Pact" the Council of the European Union (2008) states that youth employment and participation in education and training should remain key objectives of the economic and social strategies by giving particular attention to young people with fewer opportunities.

The European Youth Forum has recently given youth policy in education a global perspective in asking for a new education for a globalised work entailing "… a holistic view to education, viewing all three educational fields (formal, non-formal and informal), and their strengths, as complementary types of education." (2008).

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