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Freedom and the Prospect of Education

Youth politicians all around Europe are thrilled. The topics of the young generation are finally high up on the political agenda: the Youth Guarantee, Youth Unemployment, and ‘Employability’ are now established in the political jargon. The political focus on the younger generation and the amount of policies made is evolving for each day that goes by.

As much as we embrace the fact and try to make our – the young people’s – voice heard, we still have to ask ourselves which tools would enable us to live a self-determined life – and which are the ones arousing covetousness at its best but add, in fact, little to a sustainable solution. Don’t get me wrong! Any efforts embracing what the young generation calls for should be appreciated. While elderly have their own strong representations, every young generation has to fight for their spot. Two initiatives are highly debated at the moment: The Youth Guarantee and the Loan Scheme for Master students.

While the Youth Guarantee is aiming at sudden support for the youth and tries to offer training or employment opportunities within four months to young people under the age of 25, we have to question whether the allocation of funds to achieve these goals is granted properly: the idea to focus on regions is good since it follows the principle of subsidiarity, solutions should be found on the level on which the problem actually exists. Nonetheless, by setting the measurement that youth unemployment needs to reach a level above 25% in the region, moral hazard behaviour might be triggered. Regions will have an interest in presenting themselves in a worse state than they actually are.

Even if an improvement would be achieved – that means young people will have found their way into the labour market or into training – the regions will have an incentive to present their levels of youth unemployment to remain above 25%. While this race to the bottom will aim at securing cash flow into the region, it weakens the efforts to move the youth out of its misery. It is effective, sustainable solutions that need to be considered. The grants provided in the Youth Guarantee program need to be orientated to programs that ensure sustainable educational programs and trainings. They need to focus on the actual demand in the labour market.

It is important to point out that actual achievements are not the main factor in the planning of policies. It is rather the opposite, if we take a look at the Master Loan Scheme Guarantee. It is a mean that shall empower students to move across Europe, in order to study in a master programme in their desired field of studies. Both, the EU Commission and the European Parliament tasked the European Investment Bank (EIB) to channel through guarantees to private banks. These will then be able to hand out student loans at a reasonable interest rate. It is a tool envisioned to particularly fill one gap: provide financing for students that desire to complete their entire master studies abroad. Conventional Erasmus funds cannot be tapped for such, they can only be utilized if a student is enrolled in a university program from which he then takes parts of his study for a semester or two abroad.

It is more than just closing a financing gap, it is also considering the regional diversity and richness we provide in Europe: in the 21st century, it is more important than ever to invest in human capital ad in education. While technology is certainly a tool in helping to bridge distances, this is only true within a limited scope. When education cannot be delivered to the student wherever he may be, then the student must be enabled to go get this knowledge at another destination. Specialized learning at the best can be achieved easily with the loan scheme guarantee. 300.000 students shall benefit from this mean in the period 2014 – 2020. It is 300.000 young, highly-skilled students that do believe in their abilities. They are willing to put their claims onto the future and their prospect in life.

Opposing this idea of creating opportunities will only result in the creation of a ‘lost generation’: Not a ‘lost generation’ in a sense as some politicians refer to these days when speaking about the unemployed youth. But we need to be careful not to create a lost generation that is being patronised! No one is forced to apply for any loans, but if people want to achieve great things in their lives and have trust in their abilities; they should by no means be stopped.

We need a generation that believes in its bright future here in Europe!