The European education programmes Leonardo da Vinci and Socrates were initiated in 1995 in order to contribute to the development of quality education and encourage lifelong learning in Europe. Although the Member States of the European Union are responsible for the content of education and the organisation of education and training systems, the European Commission set up these two programmes to facilitate additionally the European “journey” towards the knowledge society.
The impact assessment has demonstrated that the programmes have contributed to Estonian educational scene in different ways, bringing about significant benefits on individual and organisational levels and sometimes on sectoral level (Leonardo). The analysis has demonstrated that the beneficiaries have placed great value on the experience gained from participating. The programmes have been significant in helping to meet a number of needs, in addition to being relevant and having high value added to Estonian educational scene.
Apart from Erasmus, educational programmes have been functioning on their own without interference or clear guidance from the national level. Tailoring the programmes according to specific national needs so that the selection of beneficiaries is guided by specific priorities would contribute to higher effectiveness and would help to achieve national educational goals.
The report pointed out the following shortcomings and potential areas of improvement:
- One of the goals of Erasmus is to facilitate the mobility of students who otherwise might not be able to participate in international study. To be able to achieve this aim, the grant levels should be higher, taking into account the cost of living in host countries.
- The number of participants in Comenius initial teacher training has been very modest. The reasons being the confusion surrounding the curriculum of teacher training and the complexity of the scheme itself.
- About one fifth of participants were not satisfied with the language preparation in professional area.
- The analysis of Leonardo reports has also pointed out that not all beneficiaries have been receiving certifications proving their participation, which is important for job seeking
- Leonardo should allow investments in order to magnify the effects of the projects.
- Erasmus students have pointed out that Estonian HEIs should be better informed regarding the conditions in host country, including the actual availability of language courses and the cost of living.
- Some Erasmus students have also pointed out that the diploma supplements of HEIs could contain a note on the participation in Erasmus mobility to reflect the value placed on this activity.
- Erasmus institutions have reflected a concern that success of mobility is evaluated only based on the number of participants in mobility. As it is known that longer periods of mobility are more effective, quality of mobility should be also emphasised.
- In case of Erasmus teacher mobility it has come out that sometimes preparation for exchanges could be very time-consuming and costly. Therefore, consideration should be given to supporting preparation. Well-prepared teachers are more responsible and motivated contributing, for instance, to attracting foreign students to Estonian universities.
- Participants in Socrates centralised projects have pointed out that dissemination and marketing should be more financially supported in projects to achieve wider popularity and knowledge of products.
- The participants need greater clarity regarding intellectual property rights related to products produced.
The experience of Estonian organisations in centralised projects has brought out that frequent delays and insufficient information sharing on the part of the EC has negatively affected project implementation. There is a clear need for significantly improving the dissemination of project results and impacts, in a coherent and user-friendly way, on national as well as European level.