Education trade unions at the third European Education Summit “online learning cannot substitute schools and teachers!”


At the third European Education Summit education trade unions underlined that high-quality education should go hand in hand with increased sustainable public funding and reinforced social dialogue with education trade unions.

The third edition of the annual European Education Summit took place on 10 December 2020 under the motto Digital Education Transformation: Building Resilience in the European Education Area. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year’s event was held online in public live streaming. In opening Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth highlighted how the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic challenged teachers, students, and the entire education system. Referring to the Education and Training Monitor 2020, the Commissioner acknowledged that teachers did not have the adequate tools to face the challenges of distance teaching. She added that education has to be considered as a strategic investment for the future in the fight against inequalities; and that it was important to adequately equip students and teachers, and to move forward to a digital, inclusive and green high-quality education.

The summit had an extensive agenda of keynote speeches by European Commissioner, followed by several parallel high-level panels on education and training amid digital transition, green revolution and gender equalities, as well as sessions on new perspectives of investment in education and transformation of higher education beyond the COVID-19 crisis. A wide list of contributions including around 60 speakers among national ministries of education, representatives of the European Education Social Partners (ETUCE and EFEE), and members of the civic society, animated the fruitful discussions.

Larry Flanagan, ETUCE new elected President, had a panel speaker role in the high-level panel “Blended learning- the new normal for teachers”. Addressing European and national authorities, ETUCE President said "Blended learning is a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis. Despite its potential, online learning can never become a substitute for schools and teachers. Children don't learn values of kindness or respect from a computer. They learn it from real interactions". He highlighted that during the months of the lockdown many teachers were left without any support and they faced technical and pedagogical difficulties linked to distance learning and teaching. He continued highlighting that “The teachers' workforce is a huge resource that will be critical to building an education recovery”. Furthermore, he urged the European Union and the national Education ministries to provide further sustainable public investment to education and to reinforce the social dialogue with education trade unions as a fundamental component for the creation of effective and equitable ways to recovery. He reminded that teachers should have a central role in the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility.

See the full programme of the European Education Summit 2020 here.

Check out the live streaming here.