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Back to school: EU support to pupils, students and teachers

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As millions of pupils and teachers in Europe start the new school year, the Commission continues to accompany and support them. The pandemic has highlighted schools' capacity to innovate, but also outlined significant difficulties to adapt and to ensure quality and inclusive education for all learners. The EU supports student and teacher exchanges across Europe in different formats and collaboration aimed at promoting quality and inclusion, and supporting the digital and green transitions. The Commission has put forward many actions at EU level for schools, gathered around several topics: promoting cooperation and mobility; investing in education and skills; working towards educational success and inclusion; providing advice and platforms for online co-operation; supporting the green transition through education, and much more.

For instance, from this year on, also pupils from general school education can fully benefit from Erasmus+ and go abroad, individually or with their class. This means that now all learners have access to the same opportunities, be they in schools, in vocational education and training, or higher education. With over €28 billion for 2021-2027, the new Erasmus+ programme has almost doubled its budget compared to the previous period. More than €3.1bn is dedicated to mobility and cooperation projects in general school education, and more than €5.5bn 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. In addition to the increased Erasmus+ budget, about €60bn will be channelled to investments in education and skills in national recovery plans, corresponding to more than 10% of the total Recovery and Resilience Facility budget. More actions are coming before the end of the year, for instance the launch of the first European Innovative Teaching Awards. The award will showcase innovative teaching and learning practices developed in Erasmus+ transnational co-operation projects. For more information on the actions of the Commission in the field of education, please consult this page.

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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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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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European Commission report on adult education and training in Europe

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The European Commission's Eurydice network has published a report on ‘Adult Education and Training in Europe: Building inclusive pathways to skills and qualifications'. The report examines current approaches to promoting lifelong learning, with a particular focus on policies and measures supporting the access of adults with low levels of skills and qualifications, to learning opportunities. It looks at 42 education and training systems across 37 European countries.

Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “This pandemic has shown that many adults do not have adequate basic skills. In particular, it has revealed the large digital divide among the adult population. It is essential to create systematic learning opportunities allowing people to improve their basic skills at any stage of life. We also need to address the fragmentation of the adult learning sector, so that adults can make straightforward transitions between different types and forms of education.”

Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit said: “To adapt to the rapidly-changing world of work, we must focus our attention and resources on lifelong learning. By 2030, we want at least 60% of adults in the EU to participate in training every year. EU leaders welcomed this ambition and their national recovery and resilience plans include large investments in upskilling and reskilling of adults. Together with Social Partners and all stakeholders, we need to ensure access to learning opportunities especially for people who would benefit from upskilling and reskilling the most. This aspect is central to the Upskilling Pathways initiative which pays particular attention to the most vulnerable.”

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In addition to looking into how adult education and training initiatives are coordinated at national level, this report also presents a unique mapping of publicly-funded and co-funded adult education and training programmes, and the existing guidance and support measures for the least qualified. The Eurydice Network consists of national units in European countries, and is co-ordinated by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency.

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