Education trade unions and employers commit to a comprehensive vision to support education systems in the COVID-19 recovery


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The European social partners for education, ETUCE and the European Federation of Education Employers, have agreed to a new joint statement on COVID-19 and its consequences.

ETUCE European Director Susan Flocken welcomed the news: “This joint statement shows how social partners are working hard to lead the debate on the COVID-19 pandemic, which has profoundly destabilised education in Europe. This crisis has changed the world, but is also an opportunity to stop and reflect. It is time for a comprehensive strategy to guarantee equal access to high quality education, something that goes hand in hand with decent work for education personnel. I believe that this statement can make a crucial contribution to that strategy.

“Today’s agreement is the product of long and detailed negotiations, demonstrating that the European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education is able to engage with the key issues facing education systems and their employees. For the sake of students and staff everywhere, we now call on policymakers and education authorities at national and European level to follow the shared vision of those who know the education sector best: education staff and employers.”

The statement sets out a series of demands and recommendations jointly approved by the education trade unions and employers’ organisations at European level, which are aimed at policymakers. These include:

  • Sustainable public investment in education, to ensure that systems and their staff are prepared and resilient for future crises;
  • Recognition and support for strong and meaningful social dialogue in education;
  • A guarantee of quality jobs and decent working conditions for all education personnel;
  • Policies and equipment to ensure the health and safety of all education personnel, including hygiene measures, psycho-social risk reduction and investment in safe, green buildings;
  • Recognition of the professional autonomy of all education personnel;
  • Support for all personnel in the form of adequate tools, resources, equipment, along with initial and continuous professional development and professional support;
  • Comprehensive policies to address the digital skills gap and ensure that all students have access to the necessary quality digital material and education;
  • Actions to ensure that the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis do not damage equality and inclusion in the education sector.

In the area of Vocational Education and Training (VET), the social partners ask for the development of strong links between the VET sector and the labour market, for example through a system of apprenticeships which follows and implements the European Framework for Quality Apprenticeship. Leaders must also address the impact of any economic recession on the job perspectives of VET students, especially by integrating measures focused on this issue into upcoming European initiatives like the youth support package.

Meanwhile, when it comes to Higher Education and Research, ETUCE and EFEE agreed on the need for quality working environments for online or blended teaching, which support high-quality education and enable students to engage in meaningful learning processes. Policymakers must also acknowledge and recognize the large contribution that researchers and academic staff, and early career researchers in particular, are giving to research, development, and innovation. Finally, academic freedom and institutional autonomy must be promoted, in order to ensure universities’ ability as collegial bodies to foster basic research, including in areas such as health, the environment, and social sciences, with the potential to offer long-term benefits for society and the economy.

ETUCE and EFEE member organisations across Europe will now use this statement in their advocacy and social dialogue at national level and towards the EU Institutions.

Image byMichal Jarmoluk from Pixabay