A European Education Alliance for the future of education

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Kazakstan's education and skills policies will be crucial for the Central Asian country's economic recovery and digital transition. [Shutterstock/Ann in the uk]

Two European lawmakers, Victor Negrescu and Eva Maydell, set out their plans for how a European Education Alliance can help advance education across the bloc.

Victor Negrescu is a Socialist and Democrat group MEP, and co-chair of the European Education Alliance; Eva Maydell is an EPP MEP and co-chair of the European Education Alliance

If the future of the European project is to be safeguarded, education must play a major role in the process of building a better, more just, more inclusive European society and in guiding us toward our ambitious green and digital future.

This is the founding principle of our initiative to create the European Education Alliance – a platform bringing together eager minds and creative ideas in support of advancing education across the EU.

Now, we invite everyone – from MEPs to local leaders, educators, innovators, engaged citizens, NGOs, tech companies – to join our project, in support of the future we all want.

We should be using these testing times to increase the resilience of our educational systems – to reform them in order to stand up to the challenges our societies and economies face.

Significant and bold action is needed to further these objectives. Cooperation at the European level and with the relevant stakeholders, with professors, learners, and parents, is needed to face these new challenges.

The re-opening of schools and universities is, for instance, one of the most pressing issues that requires exchanges of best practices but also adaptable and innovative solutions.

Above all, there is strength in numbers, which is why the Alliance wants to bring together MEPs from several pro-European political groups and different committees to cooperate in improving education policies for our communities, pushing for legislative action at the European level in the field of education.

There is a growing societal consensus that to create long-term sustainable growth, as well as to build more inclusive societies, Europe must invest more in education, but this is not the whole story. Our platform is an instrument to transform the current debate on education and make the funding of educational systems a European priority.

The current context has shown us that more action is needed to improve digital literacy, excellence and access to digital education, adapt education to the needs of our communities, tackle the increasing inequalities in education, given that the increased digitalization of our systems has too often left out children and students with little access to online platforms, ensure access to quality broadband Internet, mobile terminals and digital education infrastructure or to promote active European citizenship through education and research.

In order to do that our Alliance supports the need for more investments in education, because a truly modern European education requires improved infrastructure, that addresses the issues of inequality and exclusion, as well as a motivated and well-paid staff, and calls for more efforts in promoting STEM education, because a digital, innovative and green society requires educational systems to put additional emphasis on STEM, especially if we want to bridge the digital divide.

In order to achieve these objectives, the Alliance will try to initiate legislative action and policies at European level and include education in the EU recovery measures. In the context of the Commission’s proposal for a digital education action plan, we seek to bring our added value and support the creation of the European Education Area as a strong basis for common initiatives and standards.

Our desire is to build cross-political and cross-committee dialogue together with the other EU institutions and major actors in terms of education at Member States level and examine the option for building up a stronger role for the European Parliament in the debates on education.

Of course, in order to do that, the Alliance will seek to interact with the major stakeholders even on controversial issues like the impact brain-drain has on the EU member states and the potential policies meant to limit the possible negative consequences of this phenomenon.

Our goal is to organize debates with the major European educational platforms, in order to understand the lessons of the past months and to plan for the challenges ahead, so as to make online learning a worthwhile experience, evaluate the possibility of increased integration of education and research but also to generate an impact in terms of questions that are being raised at EU level, own initiative reports or pilot projects focused on education.

However, the structural problems that need to be addressed are not simply the result of a shortage in funding or of previous focus on the wrong priorities. An integrated approach to education is needed, mainstreaming it into all major policies.

Education is not simply a distinct aspect of our lives, which ends at the school door or university gate, but a lifelong commitment to bettering oneself and learning about the world around us.

To give just one example of the intersection between education policy and other major policy areas, essential goals such as improving digital competencies for all ages are strongly connected with the performance of the economy and the functioning of the labour market.

Education is influenced by a myriad of policies and political approaches, and this is the point that the Alliance is trying to make: Responsible political leaders must draft all policies with a look at their impact on education. Only then can we argue that education has become a major policy and societal goal.

We call upon all political, community, and business leaders, at the European and national level alike, to rise to this most essential challenge: Education in Europe can become the instrument of change for the better, only if more of us stand up for its needs.

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