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Commission steps up action for high quality and inclusive primary and secondary education

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The Commission has published a proposal for a Council Recommendation on blended learning to support high quality and inclusive primary and secondary education. ‘Blended learning' in formal education and training is the term used to describe when a school, educator or student takes more than one approach to the learning process. It can be a blend of school site and other physical environments (companies, training centres, distance learning, outdoor, cultural sites, etc.), or blending different learning tools that can be digital and non-digital. The Commission proposes shorter-term measures to address the most pressing gaps exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a way forward for blending learning environments and tools in primary and secondary education and training, that can help build more resilient education and training systems.

Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: "Striving for a vision of better quality and inclusive education and training is by no means limited to the COVID-19 context. There is an opportunity now to learn and move forward from the most recent experiences. Today's proposal maps a vision of the education we want to see in Europe. One that supports the overall goals of the European Education Area and Digital Education Action Plan to promote quality and inclusion, green and digital education across Europe. The recommendation aims to guide member states in strengthening the preparedness and outreach of their education systems to the benefit of pupils and students, their families and the pedagogical staff.” 

Blended learning can help to improve the inclusiveness of education, particularly due to its flexibility. It can mean better education provision in remote and rural areas, and for those who are part of traveller communities, or residing in hospitals and care centres, and those engaged in high-performance training. All environments and tools should be equally accessible to minority groups, children with disabilities or from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and should not lead to discrimination or segregation.

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The Commission's proposal for this Council Recommendation includes that member states should:

  • Provide additional learning opportunities and targeted support to learners facing learning difficulties, with special educational needs, from disadvantaged groups or having been otherwise adversely affected by school disruption. This could include, for example, enhanced individualised support, mentoring systems, additional learning time during the school year and/or holiday period, access to additional learning environments, such as public libraries and community spaces, and to after-school services with pedagogical support. In that context, the Commission recommends mobilising or recruiting additional staff to allow more time for individual support at school and in after-school activities;
  • prioritize the physical and mental wellbeing of learners and their families, as well as teachers and trainers. This could include developing guidance for mental health, and including student and teacher wellbeing and anti-bullying policies in school objectives;
  • boost the development of digital competences of learners, of their families and of teachers and trainers, and encouraging investment at school and community level in available devices and connectivity;
  • support effective partnerships for infrastructure and resources between different education providers, including from business, arts, cultural heritage, sport, nature, higher education, and research institutes, the educational resources industry (including technology, publishing, and other curriculum equipment) and educational research, and;
  • Make full use of EU funds and expertise for reforms and investment in infrastructure, tools and pedagogy to increase resilience and preparedness for future-ready schools, in particular Erasmus+, the Recovery and Resilience Facility, European Social Fund Plus, European Regional Development Fund, Digital Europe Programme, Horizon Europe and the Technical Support Instrument.

The Commission stands ready to support the implementation of the Recommendation by facilitating mutual learning and exchanges among member states and all relevant stakeholders within the dialogue forums set up under the European Education Area and the Digital Education Action Plan and on its online platforms and communities for education and training: School Education Gateway and eTwinning.

A focus on the development of a blended learning approach in primary and secondary school education will be included in the regular progress reports of the European Education Area and the Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027.

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The Commission calls on member states to swiftly adopt today's proposal for a Council Recommendation.

More information

Proposal for a Council Recommendation on blended learning for high quality and inclusive primary and secondary education

European Education Area

Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027

Education

EU announces €25 million for education in crisis contexts and €140 million to support research in sustainable food systems

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Speaking at the Global Citizen Live event, President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced that the European Union is pledging €140 million to support research in sustainable food systems and tackle food hunger via CGIAR, and a further €25m for Education Cannot Wait.  

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We must join forces to beat the coronavirus and rebuild the world better. Europe is doing its share. From the beginning, Europeans have shipped 800 million doses of vaccines with the world, even when we did not have enough for ourselves. Now, we need to step up, to help end this pandemic globally, end hunger, give children all over the world equal chances. Team Europe has already committed to donate 500 million doses of vaccines to vulnerable countries by next summer. On top, the European Commission today commits €140m to improve global food security and reduce extreme poverty, and €25m to Education Cannot Wait, supporting education for children around the world living through conflict and crisis.”

International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen said: "We must unite to put the SDGs back on track. As we continue to witness, we can never take access to education for granted. Team Europe has to date contributed to more than 40% of the funding of Education Cannot Wait, and the new €25m contribution from the EU will further support it to reach the most vulnerable children and bring them back to education. Additionally, thanks to our substantial support of €140m to CGIAR, we will be creating opportunities for youth and women, while tackling a key challenge of today, to promote sustainable food systems. Coordinated global actions will be decisive for achieving an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable transformation of food systems.” 

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Read the full press release, the statement by President von der Leyen and the factsheet on the Team Europe COVID-19 global response.

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Education

2021 university ranking show that European universities have a strong degree of co-operation

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U-Multirank, initiated by the Commission and co-funded by Erasmus+, has published its 8th university ranking, scoring almost 2,000 universities from 96 countries across the world. Among other results, it shows that European universities cooperate more intensively in comparison to other regions, especially in the performance areas of teaching & learning, research, knowledge exchange and internationalisation (staff & student mobility, joint diplomas & publications, etc.). Generally, universities working together with other institutions, businesses and industries, governments, regional bodies or across borders generally perform better than those that are less focused on cooperation. Seven aspects were taken into consideration for the ranking: strategic partnerships, international joint degrees, internships, international co-publications, co-publications with industrial partners, regional co-publications and co-patents with industry.

Every year, U-Multirank compares higher education institutions' performance in areas that matter most to students, providing the world's largest customisable online rankings. Universities can use U-Multirank data to assess their strengths and weaknesses and find ways to create or strengthen their strategic plans, including aspects on cooperation. The European Universities initiative is one of the flagship action led by the Commission towards the European Education Area. The objective is to create transnational alliances where students, staff and researchers can enjoy seamless mobility – physically as well as virtually, to study, train, teach, do research, work, or share services in any of the cooperating partner institutions. So far, there are 41 such alliances bringing together more than 280 institutions of higher education across Europe. In total, a budget of up to €287 million from Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe is available for these 41 European Universities. More information is available online.

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Education

Statement by Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič on the International Day to Protect Education from Attack

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On the occasion of the International Day to Protect Education from Attack (9 September), the EU reaffirms its commitment to promote and protect the right of every child to grow in a safe environment, have access to quality education, and build a better and more peaceful future, says Janez Lenarčič (pictured).

Attacks on schools, students and teachers have a devastating impact on access to education, education systems and on societal development. Sadly, their incidence is increasing at an alarming rate. This is all too clear from the recent developments in Afghanistan, and the crises in Ethiopia, Chad, Africa's Sahel region, in Syria, Yemen or Myanmar, amongst many others. The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack has identified more than 2,400 attacks on education facilities, students, and educators in 2020, a 33 percent increase since 2019.

Attacks on education constitute also violations of International Humanitarian Law, the set of rules seeking to limit the effects of armed conflict. Such violations are multiplying, while their perpetrators are seldom called to account. In this view, we are putting compliance with International Humanitarian Law consistently at the heart of the EU's external action. As one of the largest humanitarian donors, the EU will hence continue to promote and advocate for global respect for International Humanitarian Law, both by states and non-state armed groups during an armed conflict.

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Beyond destruction of facilities, attacks on education result in long-term suspension of learning and teaching, increase the risk of school dropouts, lead to forced labour and recruitment by armed groups and forces. School closures reinforce exposure to all forms of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence or early and forced marriage, levels of which have increased drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated the vulnerability of education worldwide. Now, more than ever, we need to minimise disruption to education disruption, and ensure that children can learn in safety and protection.

Safety of education, including further engagement on the Safe Schools Declaration, is an integral part of our efforts to protect and promote the right to education for every girl and boy.

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Responding to and preventing attacks on schools, supporting protective aspects of education and protecting students and teachers requires a coordinated and inter-sectoral approach.

Through EU-funded projects in Education in Emergencies, we help reduce and mitigate the risks posed by armed conflict.

The EU remains at the forefront of supporting education in emergencies, dedicating 10% of its humanitarian aid budget to support access, quality and protection of education.

More information

Factsheet - Education in Emergencies

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