3rd Global Education Industry Summit – Schools at the crossroads of innovation in cities and regions


25 September 2017

- Check against delivery -

Dear Ministers and delegates,

Dear representatives of the OECD

Ladies and gentlemen,


It is a real pleasure for me to welcome you here today – at the opening of this third Global Education Industry Summit.

The European Commission is the proud co-organiser of this event, together with Luxembourg. Thank you, Minister Claude Meisch for your warm words of welcome and for hosting this important meeting. And thanks to the OECD, with whom we hosted the first Global Education Industry Summit in Helsinki back in 2015, and with whom we cooperate closely in many other areas.

After several difficult years, we are now at an important crossroads. As President Jean-Claude Juncker said in his State of the European Union speech two weeks ago, “Now is the time to build a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe.”

In a post-crisis scenario, the priority is to build an European Union of convergence, jobs and growth with a stronger focus on employment and social performance. It is about a long-term and sustainable growth, improving employability, reaching convergence among and within Member States and building resilient economies and societies. None of those objectives will be met without putting people at the heart of social and economic policy, and boosting social investments.

Improving education is key in addressing these objectives, as it boosts productivity and wages; reduces the impact of demographic change and lays the foundations for sustained employability and adaptability - the best ways to prevent structural and long-term unemployment. Education builds resilience, protecting citiznes from unemployment and under-employment, and improving upwards convergence.

Education equips us with the competences we need to become citizens, workers, voters, parents - active members of our increasingly complex societies. It is education that helps us adapt to a rapidly changing world, to find a new job, to understand other cultures, to gain the new skills one needs in a society that is mobile, multicultural and increasingly digital.

Dear participants,

What I just described captures the magnitude of the challenge Ministers of education, innovators, industry leaders and representatives of schools and teachers will discuss during this 3rd Global Education Industry Summit. It is about how innovation can improve employability, but it is also about how we can strengthen our cohesion and our resilience. In other words, how to promote the the whole-school approach; the interaction between schools, the local economy, cities and regions.

This is easier said than done. Times are volatile. Technologies and changing work practices are having profound effects and it is not easy to anticipate what the labour market will look like in ten years time. It is difficult to envisage what competences our children will need and these changes offer both challenges and opportunities.  We can be sure however that attitudes matter as much as aptitudes, and that flexibility is no longer an option.

Across Europe, schools already benefit from the active use of technology in their classrooms – but, as many studies show, technology alone doesn’t improve the learning process or its outcomes.

We have to make a paradigm shift to adapt the way teaching and learning function in the classroom. Modern technology, smartly used by competent teachers in close collaboration with their students, can have a positive impact on learning – but only if we do it right.

In my view, there are three essential elements if we are to get it right:

  • the central role of initial and in-service teacher training;
  • the exchange of good practices among policy makers, a key aspect of the Commission's actions;
  • and encouraging businesses to work with the education sector to develop innovative new teaching and learning methods.

A good example of the Commission's initiatives is the Teacher Academy, a new professional development service offered by the School Education Gateway. The Academy has been extremely successful in its first year: more than 11,000 teachers enrolled in the 11 online courses, with a completion rate three times higher than the industry average.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Innovation is what drives a society forward. It generates growth, jobs and, ultimately, wealth.

But before they are taken up globally, innovations first emerge locally. This is particularly the case where different worlds interact, where students and pupils meet entrepreneurs, where teaching is connected and related to practice, and where joint and applied knowledge leads to innovation.

This is why it is so crucial that education and innovation are seen as two sides of the same coin.

There are many examples of regional innovation all over the world, but let me point to the one that really makes a difference in Europe: the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, the EIT.

The EIT plugs directly into the regional and local innovation ecosystem – exactly where tangible results are achieved. By setting up Knowledge and Innovation Communities across Europe, the EIT builds innovation hubs, where education institutions, together with innova­tors and entrepreneurs, develop world-class solutions which create growth and jobs directly in their regions.

And the EIT doesn’t only support the usual suspects. I am glad that it also funds schemes which enable those regions in Europe that have a lower innovation capacity to fully develop their innovation potential.

Dear participants,

I am particularly pleased that today's Summit draws so much attention to the local dimension, because several areas in Europe feel forgotten by progress and feel left behind. I am thinking of the suburbs and deprived areas of many cities, but also of our rural areas, those European regions that are slowly declining and disappearing from our maps. For citizens of these often forgotten areas, a school and the ability to educate their children locally is often a synonym for survival and hope.

Innovation and education can have a real, positive impact in these neglected rural areas, helping to reverse a trend that is leaving  our countryside empty of young people and pushing thousands into overcrowded cities because there are no schools for their children. With high speed internet connections  instant to knowledge, virtual exchanges and blended mobility, we have a greater opportunity than ever before to keep our rural areas vibrant, creative and competitive.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am confident this Global Education Industry Summit will help us to inspire each other, learn from each other and work together on innovative solutions to our common challenges.

Let us benefit from the collective experience here and take this spirit back to our daily life. And let's meet again next year, in Estonia, to catch up and see how far we have come.

Thank you.