The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted schools’ capacity to innovate, but it has also outlined significant difficulties to adapt and to ensure quality and inclusive education for all learners.
The European Union (EU) supports student and teacher exchanges across Europe in various formats, as well as collaboration aimed at promoting quality and inclusive education and training and to support the digital and green transitions.
Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, remarked
"The start of a new school year is always a moment filled with excitement, curiosity, and a bit of apprehension. Schools are not only a place of knowledge and critical thinking, but also the place where children learn how to live together, in a community. I want to thank all teachers who, throughout the pandemic and now, have showed an unwavering commitment to their job. The Commission will continue to complement national actions and bring real EU benefit to our education systems. All the best to all pupils and teachers for the new school year!”
Main actions at the EU level for schools
Promoting cooperation and mobility
Pupils in general school education can now also fully benefit from Erasmus+ opportunities to go abroad, individually or with their class. This means that all learners – whether they are in school education, vocational education and training or higher education – now have access to the same opportunities through Erasmus+.
With over €28 billion allocated for 2021-2027, the new Erasmus+ programme has almost doubled its budget compared to the previous period. More than €3.1 billion are dedicated to mobility and cooperation projects in general school education and more than €5.5 billion will contribute to co-fund such projects in the vocational education and training sector.
Projects have already been approved for more than 7,000 schools, with more expected in September and October.
Investment in education and skills
In addition to the increased Erasmus+ budget, around €60 billion will be channeled to investments in education and skills through national recovery plans, corresponding to more than 10% of the total Recovery and Resilience Facility budget.
Working towards educational success and inclusion
The Commission is committed to support EU Member States in providing high-quality and inclusive education for all pupils. In August 2021, the Commission adopted a proposal on blended learning. Its goals are to draw lessons from the recent period of educational disruption and to build more resilient, future-proof education and training systems.
Providing advice and platforms for online cooperation
Together with national experts, the Commission develops guidance and toolkits on several topics of interest to teachers and school leaders on common educational challenges. These address issues from how to reduce drop-out in schools to further involving parents to the recruitment and motivation of well-qualified staff in early childhood education and care, among other topics.
Launched in 2005 and funded by Erasmus+, eTwinning has already involved more than 900,000 teachers and school staffers from over 200,000 schools. This makes it the largest online community for teachers and schools in Europe.
The School Education Gateway is an online platform providing information and exchange on policy and practice in school education. As of 2022, these two platforms will be merged into a single, secure and specialised online space for collaboration and professional development.
Contributing to creating a European identity
The Jean Monnet actions provide financial support to develop teaching modules on the objectives and the functioning of the EU. For the first time, this year the scheme will be extended to schools.
The European Language Label awards innovative initiatives in the field of language teaching and learning to promote multilingualism.
Supporting the green transition
Launched in December 2020, the Education for Climate Coalition engages directly with students, teachers, schools and their wider community through a policy dialogue on education for environmental sustainability.
By the end of the year, the Commission also intends to publish a proposal to boost cooperation between EU Member States on education for environmental sustainability and a new European framework on sustainability competences.
A public consultation to gather views and ideas on education and sustainability is running until 24 September 2021.
On 16 September 2021, the Commission will launch the first European Innovative Teaching Awards. The award will showcase innovative teaching and learning practices developed in Erasmus+ transnational cooperation projects.
The Commission will also launch the new SELFIEforTEACHERS online tool to help primary and secondary teachers assess how they are using digital technologies in their professional practice. The tool will be available in October 2021 and builds on the success of the current SELFIE tool, which supports schools as whole in the efficient use of technology for educational purposes.
The new Erasmus+ Teacher Academies will be launched in spring 2022. They will bring together teachers and teacher educators to collaborate on the effective use of digital tools and online learning, education for environmental sustainability, teaching in multilingual classrooms and creating inclusive schools.
The right to education is enshrined in article 14 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
“everyone has the right to education and to have access to vocational and continuing training”.
The European Education Area aims to create a genuine European space of learning, which benefits all learners, teachers and institutions. In her Political Guidelines, Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, committed to making the European Education Area a reality by 2025.
Establishing the European Education Area will improve access to quality education and training, enable learners to move easily between education systems in different countries and help create a culture of lifelong learning, fully respecting the responsibility of the Member States for the content of teaching and the organisation of their education systems.
The recently adopted European Child Guarantee recommends that Member States provide free and effective access to children in need to early childhood education and care, to education and school-based activities and at least one healthy meal each school day.
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Header image: © iStock/VioletaStoimenova, 2020.