Culture and Education for All: Building the Skills for More Resilient Societies
Brussels, 16 March 2018
Civil society organisation, European and International Institutions, permanent representations, universities, teachers and stakeholders came together on March 14th to discuss a common approach to linking culture and education. In light of the European Year of Cultural Heritage and the European Commission’s 2017 Communication on “Strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture” the debate aimed at discussing possible synergies between the two policy fields and reacting to the proposed Future of Learning package. The package includes the Council Recommendation for the revision of the Key Competences for lifelong learning and promoting social inclusion and shared EU values through teaching. To this extent, recent policy developments prompted the organisers to acknowledge the need to rebuild on past common positions, widen their scope, and formulate new recommendations to policy-makers.
The day opened with an intervention by Ms Erna Hennicot-Schoepges, former Minister of Education, Culture and Research of Luxembourg, who recalled that true partnership is possible with common goals and intent within the European arena. In her keynote speech, she addressed the pressing need to boost national investments in education and refocus educational curricula on individual capacity-building from an early age, acknowledging the vital contribution that music, arts and culture can make in this regard. She called for education and culture to become a truly common EU strategy. Mr Yasen Gyurov, Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, stressed the importance of inclusion through access to quality education and making the best use of digital technology in education to both prepare people for the jobs of the future and support their own personal development. Mr Jens Nymand-Christensen, Deputy Director General of DG EAC, pointed out that we all should embrace cultural diversity as a way of enhancing people’s resilience and immunity to extremist voices. Paolo Fontani, Director of UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels, emphasised the need for a profound rethinking of what education is for, and of bringing together the culture and education spheres in school programming and curricula development, while bearing in mind that learning not only happens at school. David Lopez, President of the Lifelong Learning Platform, elaborated on this recalling that
“A lifelong learning approach – linking together formal, non-formal and informal learning – should be promoted and for that adequate investment, as well as genuine dialogue between institutions and civil society actors in the education and cultural fields, are essential”.
Lars Ebert, Senior Advisor at ELIA and Culture Action Europe board member, highlighted the importance of breaking the bubbles and the role of arts:
“Complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity are the top three skills in post 2020 societies. To enable humans of all ages to acquire these skills we have to break through silos and set up common frameworks for education and culture and ultimately also science and technology. The arts will play a central role in the future of humans in the 4th industrial revolution. Its high time that this is reflected in our policies”
The meeting was highly valuable in contributing to the definition of a new position for civil society organisations and stakeholders vis-à-vis the benefits of more robust synergies between education and culture. The need for a substantiated step forward led the participants to identify common issues and shared solutions in order to render all learners visible. We should all envision mutual forms of communication, and develop a new language that would eventually inform the partnership. The role of teachers – and of teaching (learning) in general – was immensely valued during informal talks, with the argument that the notion of ‘teacher’ should be widened to educators of all forms, including actors in the culture sector. A great role in the definition of new competences shall be played by the digital revolution, which encompasses all aspects of life, (including museums and libraries) and greatly promotes culture and learning opportunities. Culture and education join forces in that, they push forward new examples of learning mobility: cultural awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity are learning schemes that Europe cannot afford to overlook.
All organisers call upon the European institutions to enhance synergies and deepen collaboration between education and culture. Various studies have demonstrated that the arts education prepares for the future, developing “soft skills”; increasingly sought for at the labour market educational activities in the cultural sector spark curiosity and inspire children to learn; cultural awareness and expression support democracy, active citizenship and intercultural dialogue. Recent policy reforms at EU level on validation of non-formal and informal learning should pave the way for a greater involvement of cultural actors and creative competences in these mechanisms. To this extent, more skills call for more learning opportunities of all types, an ideal horizon which can only become reality with investment and a genuinely collaborative and cross-sectoral approach.
Such an event highlighted the need for cross-sectoral cooperation and its added value in building bridges for a great personal and professional development for all citizens across Europe. The partner organisations are committed to continue this work throughout the year and the years to come to turn policy into practice.
For information contact:
 Lifelong Learning Platform (LLLP); Culture Action Europe (CAE); European Association of History Educators (EUROCLIO); European Distance and e-Learning Network (EDEN); European University Foundation (EUF); Public Libraries 2020; European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA); Europeana