Apart from its new Digital Education Action Plan, the EU Commission also presented its vision on creating a European Education Area on 30 September 2020. Both Communications shall contribute to a speedy recovery and a better transition to a digital and green society.
What is needed to cushion the consequences of the Coronavirus crisis, is, apart from short-term financial support for businesses and employees, also long-term and sustainable investments – in particular an education system, which can cope with the challenges of a green and digital transition.
Digital Education Action Plan
Digital education is one of the key action plans to make Europa fit for the digital age. It was for the first time established in 2018. The updated Action Plan 2021 - 2027 is not only meant for a significantly longer period; it is also significantly more ambitious than its predecessor. It goes far beyond formal education, draws lessons from the Coronavirus crisis and outlines a plan for an efficient education ecosystem, which predominantly focusses on the competencies for the digital transition. With regard to digital remote learning, homeschooling during the Coronavirus lockdown has harshly exposed weaknesses across Europe, also in respect of adult education. Hence in concrete terms, the Action Plan provides financial support to expand broadband access for educational institutions and to convey digital competencies for teaching staff. Apart from that, an update of the digital competence framework – comparable with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages – shall help to classify digital competencies and to make them comparable across Europe. In order to strengthen the exchange in the digital education sector at EU level, it has been planned to set up a European platform, which promotes cooperation and utilizes synergies between relevant policy areas. The intention is the parallel development of national consultation services and to strengthen the cooperation between public and private sector.
Vision of a European Education Area
In a second Communication, the Commission presented its vision to create a European Education Area by 2025. Apart from new initiatives and comprehensive investments, this also provides for greater cooperation between Member States. This shall not only enable all Europeans to optimally use the educational and vocational training opportunities within the EU, but also improve the quality, the inclusivity as well as the digital and green dimension of national education systems. The basic idea in jointly designing a European Education Area shall be that teachers and learners will have the same opportunity to teach and learn across the whole continent and that educational institutions and partners all over Europe (and in other parts of the world) will be able to unite and coordinate – for example, with regard to convergence of curricula or mobility.
In concrete terms, the European Education Area shall comprise six dimensions – among them quality, inclusion and gender equality as well as green and digital transitions. Part of the review is to find out as to how quality and academic achievement could be improved and how inclusion and gender equality could be better incorporated in (higher) education. The Communication also names instruments and milestones, which shall contribute to establishing a European Education Area. The cooperation in already existing working groups shall be continued and intensified by greater collaboration with civil society and researchers.
AK demands more intensive measures regarding training and further education
Both initiatives will also be dealt with within the scope of the Third European Education Summit, which the Commission has scheduled to take place online on 10 December 2020. Ministers and stakeholders will discuss how general and vocational training can be made fit for the digital age. From the point of view of the Chamber of Labour, digital competencies are key to enable all citizens to participate in an increasingly digitalised society. Hence, it had already before the Coronavirus crisis demanded more intensive measures in the vocational and training sector and warns against a digital divide due to different options to access the digital infrastructure.