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Let’s Talk: Young people shaping the future of education in Europe

The Communication on the European Education Area is foreseen to be adopted on 30 September 2020. 

As a run-up to its adoption and part of an ongoing consultation process, a video conference with European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, and representatives of youth organisations from across the European Union (EU) took place on 9 July. 

The purpose of the video conference was to hear young people’s views on what matters to them in relation to the future of education and learning.

Commissioner Gabriel opened the discussion by emphasising that we look to young people to hear about their aspirations, passions and ideas as to how to make our societies more fair, resilient, digital and green.  

She highlighted that everyone should have access to high-quality and inclusive education and that the upcoming Communication aims to achieve this through strengthened investment, rolling out a bigger and stronger future Erasmus programme, by pressing ahead with the European Universities Initiative, offering Erasmus Digital Skills Traineeships in 2021; as well as focusing on cross-border cooperation, such as volunteering, through the European Solidarity Corps. 

Commissioner Gabriel also mentioned that we look to the enthusiasm and ideas of young people as to how education can become more empowering.

Moderated by Stefaan Hermans, Director of Policy Strategy and Evaluation at the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture (DG EAC), the video conference brought together around a dozen youth leaders representing tens of millions of young people across the EU, who had clear views as to what education should deliver on in the years to come. 

Key takeaways from the discussions included:

  • the need for a strengthened budget for the future Erasmus programme in view of making it more inclusive, sustainable and digital
  • equal access to high-quality education for all ensuring that no one is left behind, including young people in both urban and rural areas, as well as marginalised youth
  • the importance of digital literacy and the urgent need for young people, educators and teachers to improve their digital skills
  • making the case to create synergies between formal, non-formal and informal learning as a means to provide a more flexible way of learning and the need to formally recognise non-formal and informal learning
  • updating curriculum to ensure that it reflects the learning needs of today’s societies, including sustainable development, values, digital literacy and civic education
  • the relevance of European identity, diversity and cultural heritage when looking at the future of learning

Commissioner Gabriel concluded by thanking the participants for sharing their ideas and visions. She agreed that an increased budget for the future Erasmus programme is vital and asked participants for their support (on 17 and 18 July) when EU leaders meet in Brussels to discuss the long-term EU budget 2021-2027 and the COVID-19 recovery plan.

The Commissioner also mentioned that we look to young people and the role they can play regarding the Missions within Horizon Europe (which include cancer, smart cities and climate change adaptation), as research and innovation in these areas may hold the answers to some of today’s most pressing challenges. 

Lastly, she invited participants to take part in the Open Public Consultation for the Digital Education Action Plan and signalled that the she would consult youth leaders once again right after the adoption of the European Education Area communication to discuss young people’s role in its implementation.