Education and Science, EU – Baltic States, Legislation, Modern EU

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Wednesday, 20.02.2019, 03:30

Reducing inequalities and sustaining competitiveness in education

Eugene Eteris, RSU/BC, Riga, 24.01.2018.Print version
European Commission adopted new initiatives to improve key competences and digital skills of European citizens, to promote common values and pupils’ awareness of the functioning of the European Union.

The new proposals come only two months after European Heads of State and Government discussed education, training and culture at the Gothenburg Summit in November 2017. The idea behind new proposals is to reduce socio-economic inequalities, whilst sustaining competitiveness in education in the process of creating a more united, stronger and democratic Europe.


As soon as education is a “supporting” EU activity (most is done by the states), the Commission is ready to support and to work together with the EU states to make implement the proposals.


The new proposals will also feed into the first European Education Summit (Brussels, 25 January) with the theme of "Laying the foundations of the European Education Area: for an innovative, inclusive and values based education".

Commission’s opinion about new proposals

According to Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President of the Commission for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, new initiatives aim at empowering individuals so that they can make the most of their lives and to build fair, resilient economies and societies. The member states shall to ensure that national education systems deliver for all, so that everybody can benefit from change. This is vital for Europe's sustainable growth and competitiveness and will be even more so in the future.


EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics added that European education and training systems need to give people from all backgrounds the right competences to progress and prosper professionally. Changes need to harness the potential of education to foster social cohesion and a sense of belonging: hence, the EU states have to introduce in education European common values and make sure that education enables pupils to experience their European identity in all its diversity and learn more about European integration.


EU Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel underlined the importance of digital aspects in education as ICT is expanding into all areas of life while fostering digital transformation. However, digital skills’ gap is really big: already 90% of future jobs require some level of digital literacy, but 44% of Europeans lack basic digital skills. The Digital Education Action Plan (the Commission is proposing too) will help Europeans, educational institutions and education systems to better adapt to life and work in increasingly digital societies.


The three initiatives proposed by the Commission are:

1. Council “Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning: Building on the Recommendation on Key Competences” was adopted in 2006. This proposal brings forward important updates reflecting the rapid evolution of teaching and learning since then. It aims to improve the development of key competences of people of all ages throughout their lives and to provide guidance to the states on how to achieve this objective.


A particular focus is placed on promoting entrepreneurial drive and innovation-oriented mindsets in order to unlock personal potential, creativity and self-initiative. Moreover, the Commission is recommending steps to foster competences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and motivate more young people to embark on a career in these fields.


The proposals made today should also be seen as part of the answer to urgently improve European education systems to face the many challenges highlighted in the latest PISA survey. More generally, the measures will support the EU states in better preparing learners for changing labour markets and for active citizenship in more diverse, mobile, digital and global societies.


2. EU Digital Education Action Plan that outlines how the EU can help people, educational institutions and education systems better adapt to life and work in an age of rapid digital change by:


·         making better use of digital technology for teaching and learning;

·         developing the digital competences and skills needed for living and working in an age of digital transformation; and

·         improving education through better data analysis and foresight.

Initiatives include supporting schools with high-speed broadband connections, scaling up a new self-assessment tool for schools on the use of technology for teaching and learning (SELFIE) and a public awareness campaign on online safety, media literacy and cyber hygiene.


3. Council “Recommendation on common values, inclusive education and the European dimension of teaching”. This initiative proposes ways in which education can help young people understand the importance of and adhere to common values (art. 2 TFEU). It aims at strengthening social cohesion and contributing to fight the rise of populism, xenophobia, divisive nationalism and the spreading of fake news. The proposal also strengthens inclusive education to promote quality education for all pupils as well as the European dimension of teaching, so children also learn about Europe's common heritage and diversity and get a good understanding of the functioning of the EU. To support these aims, the Commission will take steps to increase virtual exchanges among schools, notably through the successful e-Twinning network, and boost school mobility through the Erasmus+ program.

Legislative background

Heads of State and Government informally discussed education and training at the Gothenburg Social Summit in November 2017, guided by the Commission's Communication 'Strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture'. This resulted in the European Council conclusions of 14 December 2017 calling on the EU states, the Council and the Commission to take forward the agenda discussed in Gothenburg. The review of the 2006 Council Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning was announced in the New Skills Agenda for Europe adopted in June 2016. To prepare its proposal, the Commission held a public consultation and a stakeholder conference in 2017.


The proposed Council Recommendation on promoting common values, inclusive education, and the European dimension of teaching builds on the Paris Declaration on promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education adopted at the informal meeting of Education Ministers on 17 March 2015. It was announced in the Commission “Communication on supporting the prevention of radicalisation leading to violent extremism” (June 2016); to guide its proposal, a public consultation was held in 2017.


More information in the following web links: =Memo - Questions and answers; =Factsheet on the European Education Area; =Factsheet on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning; =Factsheet on the Digital Education Action Plan; =Factsheet on promoting common values, inclusive education, and the European dimension of teaching; =Council Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning; = Council Recommendation on promoting common values, inclusive education, and the European dimension of teaching; = Digital Education Action Plan; = Digital learning webpage, and = Gothenburg factsheets

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