The Commission presented its six priorities in 2019 with a view to build a greener, more digital, more inclusive and more resilient EU. While the bulk of education and training policies were assigned to the priority on Promoting our European way of life, all the other dimensions foresee a reliance on education and training systems: since by its very nature education and training is a key transversal policy area for the achievement of all their objectives. When considering the European Green Deal (EGD) priority, it has been, at times, difficult for education and training stakeholders to identify how education and training policies connect with the very technical legislative packages that command the political and media attention. Similarly, there has been an issue with the lack of connections with broader social policies that will ensure that implementing the technical files such as retrofitting, greenhouse emissions, among others are done in a way that puts people and planet first.
Education and training in the Green Deal: is it enough?
It is encouraging to see the interconnections between the initiatives from the European Education Area and the EGD. More concretely, the EGD highlights the development of a European competence framework and the support of exchanging on good practices in EU networks. These initiatives were developed more in depth as part of the Council Recommendation on learning for the green transition and sustainable development, the GreenComp and the Education for Climate Coalition. It is also promising to see the connections with files from the Skills Agenda such as the investment in re-skilling and upskilling which were among the main focus points of the Council Recommendation on ensuring a fair transition towards climate neutrality.
However, within the Communication on the EGD, only formal education institutions such as schools, training institutions and universities are explicitly considered as key actors to engage pupils, parents and the wider community on the changes needed for a successful transition. This focus on the formal education sectors versus a lifelong learning approach continues with calls for financial resources to make school buildings and operations more sustainable. While these aspects are an important part of the efforts, to make our education and training systems truly sustainable and resilient, investments need to go beyond physical infrastructure and the formal sector to simultaneously investing in direct support to learners of all ages, parents, educators (and their communities) as well as the non-formal and informal learning sectors. In our upcoming position paper, LLLP brings attention to the importance of investing in curricular changes and pedagogies – such as project-based and practical oriented learning which also demand investment in non-formal and informal sectors. Other key areas include ancillary services (such as housing), participatory decision-making and adequate funding for monitoring and evaluation with concrete qualitative and quantitative indicators.
As part of the EGD, the Commission also highlights the importance of proactive reskilling and upskilling strategies and measures in which the Skills Agenda, the Youth Guarantee and the European Social Fund+ will play an important role in helping Europe’s workforce. While this is a necessary step, it must be accompanied by ensuring reskilling and upskilling opportunities for all, regardless of the industry and current employment situation, but with greater targeted attention directed towards those most disadvantaged in society and towards low-skilled learners considering that they usually do not benefit of the available learning offer. This also implies a need to broaden the learning from sector-specific green skills to a more holistic development of key competences which can guarantee the opportunity for everyone to navigate the green and digital transitions and any other societal, economic or environmental changes that we will face in the future.
LLLP invites the EU institutions to go further in their ambitions to integrate EGD and social – including education and training – policies. It became apparent straightaway that whenever the Green Deal is discussed the focus falls often on the more technical aspects than on the social ones, with the former gathering a majority of the political and media attention as Member States struggle to reach agreements around several files. Given the different competence levels, key social aspects have been addressed through non-binding legislation, only inviting Member States to implement necessary changes and calling for proper monitoring of their implementation. However, this leaves a gap in which compliance with measures from Fit-for-55 (focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions) become enforceable and key files to ensure a people- and planet-centred transition lag behind.
In light of this situation, the Lifelong Learning Platform joined last year the European Alliance for a Just Transition, an initiative of SOLIDAR. The Alliance brings together organisations coming from the social, economic, environmental and political spheres to jointly advocate for immediate, bold, and transformative action at all levels of society to build a sustainable and safe future for all. This includes among other dimensions the re-shaping of our economies and the world of work, tackling inequalities, mainstreaming Just Transition through policy, recognising the role of education in the transition, delivering global climate justice, and drawing on human rights frameworks and science.
Making sure these dimensions are underpinning the European Green Deal will be the basis for a successful transition which gives all an opportunity for a decent life in harmony with each other and with nature. This cannot happen without ensuring that education and training is recognised as more than a tool for decent employment but as the foundation for well-rounded individuals that are active members and co-creators of sustainable and resilient societies, be that at work, at home, in their local communities or with nature.
Read the 7 Recommendations to maximise the social benefits of Climate Action. The Recommendations were developed in the framework of the European Alliance for a Just Transition.