Croatian EU Presidency Conference on teachers and trainers for the future: Towards the ‘New Normal’


The Croatian Presidency of the EU Council organized a virtual conference entitled Teachers and Trainers for the future on 29 June, 2020 for over 1600 participants from 46 counties. The minister of education of Croatia. Blaženka Divjak as the host of the event underlined the need of competence development of teachers because of digitalisation and acknowledged that there are shortages of teachers in Europe that many teachers do not feel that they are appreciated enough. Thus the pollical focus of the EU should be on career development and how to foster the well-being of teachers. 

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth reminded that teachers were in the frontline in the COVID-19 crisis while not every school and teachers were ready for the change to distance learning. She reminded that European teachers can use EU platforms for teaching material and exchange with other teachers in Europe via two EU websites: and e-Twining . Andreas Schleicher,  Director for Education and Skills of OECD presented the outcomes of recent OECD survey among 1400 teachers on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the teachers and the result of TALIS 2018 survey. He said that while 1.5 billion students were locked out from the schools during the crisis, it became evident that technology does not replace the social functions of schools and of the teachers. Teachers became social workers, mentors, and facilitators event more than before during the crisis and they should be further supported with digital competence development. 

Within a ministerial panel debate Jean-Michel Blanquer, Minister of National Education and Youth of  France, Václav Velčovský, Vice-Minister of Education, Youth and Sports of Czech Republic, Anna Ekström, Minister for Education of Sweden, and Blaženka Divjak, Minister of Science and Education of Croatia appreciated the teachers’ efforts within the COVID-19 crisis. 

In a thematic session, panellists discussed the transition of education systems to distance teaching and learning due to the pandemic, as well as the impact of this emergency situation on teachers, students and parents. Hannah Grainger Clemson, Directorate General for Education and Culture, European Commission, addressed the work of the ET2020 Working Group on schools, highlighting that the goal was to ensure the recruitment, retention and regeneration of the teaching profession by providing support to teaching staff in finding a balance between personal motivation, talent and competence, diverse opportunities, a sense of professional identity, and school climate. Sharing her first-hand experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, a primary school teacher from Croatia, explained that the additional workload had hugely affected teachers’ work-life balance.

Discussing the evolving roles of teachers and trainers in VET and adult learning, ETUCE European Director, Susan Flocken, highlighted that to raise the status of teachers and trainers in the VET sector, quality and sustainable education and training and sustained public investment as well as respect of the professional agency of teachers and trainers, were key. She emphasised that companies should also take their share in investing in quality initial and continuous education and training to ensure the skilled workforce. Other panellists included Irene Psifidou and Eleonora Schmid from CEDEFOP. The pandemic had had an impact on VET and apprenticeships with companies that had been closed during the lockdown and the huge challenge was the lack of equiment and connectivity, both for students and teachers/trainers. Most VET trainers and teachers were also not sufficiently trained to moving to distance teaching. Ann Vanden Bulcke, from the European Commission, deplored that VET teachers and trainers often did not benefit from the same status as other sectors.  She insisted that one way to address this is investing in the Continuous Professional Development of VET teachers and trainers, and include them in the governance.

A third panel examined the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the higher education sector, with an emphasis on the need to address this both from a pedagogical and institutional perspective, as highlighted by Michael Gaebel, European University Association. Additionally, Ulf-Daniel Ehlers, from the State University Karlsruhe, Germany, presented the outcomes of the BFUG Advisory Group on teaching and learning. This group has set out to determine the challenges of the higher education sector in Europe in light of the digital transformation as well as new skills future graduates need to deal with unforeseen challenges.

The meeting concluded with a presentation by Kevin Hawkins on the need to foster the wellbeing of teachers and trainers as a core necessity for the functioning of the education sector. He advocated for health and well-being to be prioritised in curricula, including through providing mental awareness training to teachers, highlighting that valuing well-being and health of teachers it will be key to recruiting and retaining talents into the profession.

Closing the conference, representatives of the Croatian EU Presidency recalled that teachers and trainers at all levels are indispensable and the driving force of education and training.

To read more about the Conference, please click here.