Recovery and Resilience Plans: Social dialogue at the heart of an educational recovery in Europe

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On 09 March 2021, European education trade unions and employer organisations’ delegations met for their annual European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education (ESSDE) Working Group meeting. The discussion focused on reforms and investment in education in the Recovery and Resilience Plans, the contribution of the education sector to the digital and green transition, and the impact of the Covid-19 crises on the education sector.

Education and skills are one of the seven priorities for deploying the additional EU funding of the Recovery and Resilience Plans. Central to the plans are reform measures to:

  • Improve access to quality early childhood education,
  • Foster quality and inclusive education,
  • Strengthen the teaching profession,
  • Make schools and universities fit for the digital age,
  • Make vocational training future-proof,
  • Support the transformation of higher education,
  • Invest in education infrastructure.

Regrettably, the partners denounced a lack of meaningful social dialogue on national reforms and investment in education in the framework of the Recovery and Resilience Facility. Social partners will have a key role to ensure that EU funding opportunities do not fall prey to for-profit private commercial interests of companies offering new models of hybrid teaching or digital material in education. “In most countries, social partners are just being informed, while meaningful consultations are not taking place”, stated trade unionist Tatjana Babrauskiene from Lithuania.

ETUCE members therefore called for clear criteria to be set up by the Commission, to closely observe national consultations with social partners, and to ensure that their sectoral voices are reflected in the development of national education reforms, as well as in the national Recovery and Resilience Plans. Social dialogue and collective bargaining should be at the heart of  social, economic and educational recovery in Europe. The real participation of education trade unions in the implementation of inclusive and sustainable education policy, reforms and investment within the national Recovery and Resilience Plans, is a precondition to ensure that the disruptions caused by the global pandemic do not translate into an even bigger crisis in the education sector and for society”, said Susan Flocken, ETUCE European Director.

ETUCE also called for support from the European Commission to establish benchmarks and indicators to make sure that climate change is integrated in all education curricula across Europe. Initial and continuous professional development for teachers and trainers is also crucial for fostering knowledge about the multifaceted nature of the climate crisis, and for ensuring informed discussions with students.