Education trade unions’ call for more involvement in EU’s next strategic framework of cooperation


The education ministers of the EU countries met on 19 February 2021 and adopted a Council Resolution for the European Education Area (EEA) to replace the previous ET2020 strategic framework for the period 2021-2030. The European Commission announced this initiative in 2017 when the European Pillar of Social Rights was adopted by the EU leaders in the Gothenburg Summit. It thus took 3-year long discussion to shape the European Education Area. 

The new strategic framework for the EU policy on education and training entails the principles of inclusive and holistic education and training, whose importance is also underlined by ETUCE in its position on the EEA. Besides, the Council sets up clear priorities and targets to be reached by member states within 10 years. These priority areas are:

  • Improving quality, equity, inclusion and success for all in education and training.
  • Making lifelong learning and mobility a reality for all.
  • Enhancing competences and motivation in the education profession, including the well-being of teachers at the attractiveness of the teaching profession.
  • Reinforcing European higher education, for which the Council calls for deeper cooperation, including the European Universities initiative, and more synergies with the European Research Area (ERA) and the Bologna Process.
  • Supporting the green and digital transitions in and through education and training. 

On each priority areas the Council defined specific actions and defined new benchmarks to be achieved by 2030: 

  • The share of low-achieving 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science should be less than 15%, by 2030.
  • The share of low-achieving eight-graders in computer and information literacy should be less than 15%, by 2030.
  • Increase participation in early childhood education to at least 96%.
  • Reduce the share of early leavers from education and training to less than 9%.
  • Reach at least 45% of 25-34 year-olds who graduated in tertiary education.
  • The share of recent graduates from VET benefiting from exposure to work-based learning during their vocational education and training should be at least 60%, by 2025.

ETUCE welcomes that the Council resolution respects education as a national competence and that governance of cooperation among the EU countries to meet the new targets is strengthened. However, it regrets that the Council Resolution does not emphasise the role of education social partners within the governance mechanisms. As already stated in our previous position papers on the new EEA, ETUCE stresses that education trade unions must be key partners in designing EU-level policy on education.

Another theme of the Education Council meeting was a discussion on improving equity in access and inclusion for all in education, for which Council Conclusions are expected to be approved in the upcoming Education Council (May 2021). The importance of face-to-face learning as well as the need to promote further early childhood education and favour access to education for audiences with special needs[1] was underlined. Additionally, to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portuguese Presidency informed about the launching of an online platform where member states can share their best practices to address the impact of the COVID-19pandemic in education.


[1] Children and adults with special needs, migrants, refugees, and people at risk of social exclusion.