Earth Day 2024: Make Education for Environmental Sustainability a priority in social dialogue


On the 22nd of April, we celebrate Earth Day, a global annual event that brings attention to the environmental challenges we face. On this day, following the outcomes of the joint EFEE-ETUCE project 'European Social Partners in Education Promoting Environmental Sustainability in School Learning, Teaching and Management’ which has concluded last month, ETUCE highlights the key role of social partners in education in promoting and improving education for environmental sustainability (EES), contributing to the work on the green skills and competences and uniting their efforts towards ensuring the successful design and implementation of EES with meaningful social dialogue on the national and European levels. 

An online survey conducted in the framework of the joint EFEE-ETUCE project among education employers and trade unions has found that social dialogue on EES is not considered as a priority topic in the national social dialogue and is not sufficiently recognized as a valid subject for collective bargaining negotiations. The project research has also found that in those countries where social dialogue mechanisms in education sector are effective, the social partners have been identifying possible initiatives on that matter, leading to the development of joint projects, conferences and workshops focused on raising awareness among education stakeholders in the school context. Furthermore, in some countries (e.g. Ireland, Belgium, Portugal) the ongoing pressure of national social partners contributed to certain curriculum changes to accommodate education for sustainable development across different subject areas.  

The key outcome of the EFEE-ETUCE project was the Joint Recommendation which were developed throughout the project activities which included four peer-learning activities organised in Kinsale (Ireland), Warsaw (Poland), Madrid (Spain) and Helsinki (Finland) and the final conference took place in Brussels, Belgium. This document provides a roadmap to assist the social partners in education and their affiliated members in developing concrete approaches and actions to promote environmental sustainability in school management and leadership, teaching and learning, as well as in including environmental development priorities in the social dialogue and joint social dialogue initiatives. The Recommendations highlight the particular importance of a long-term vision in education policy and a targeted and sustainable funding for EES, as well as the key role of strong alliances between social partners and other stakeholders in education (e.g. students, parents, non-governmental and civil society organisations) to support the implementation of EES. The Recommendations further confirm the commitment for social partners to promoting high quality, focused teacher training programs that equip future teachers and, school management and leadership with necessary EES skills, reviewing teacher workload to facilitate EES implementation, and promoting the provision of infrastructure with access to outdoor spaces for enabling students to appreciate all aspects of EES.  

As highlighted by ETUCE’s President Larry Flanagan, “Educating for environmental sustainability is imperative for the very future of our societies. Teachers need to be enabled and supported in their engagement with students in this topic, which needs to permeate through a whole system approach, founded on strong social dialogue at all levels: local, national and European. The recommendations on the recent EFEE – ETUCE project on Promoting Environmental Sustainability in School Learning, Teaching and Management provide a sound framework for commencing or developing work in this area” 

ETUCE member organisations are celebrating the Earth Day by encouraging the movement for environmental sustainability among affiliates and building their capacity to address this topic in teaching, as well as in the social dialogue, as recommended by ETUCE Practical Guidelines for Trade Unions on Addressing Environmental Issues and Sustainable Environmental Development in the Education Sector. For example, NEU will be launching a new green reps training course which includes learning how to use a green reps checklist, for representatives and officers to evaluate workplaces for necessary environmental changes. Furthermore, the UCU supports Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) through various initiatives. The COP26 Campaign and UCU Green New Deal are key efforts towards decarbonising and decolonising education by 2030. Additionally, they hold Continuing Professional Development (CPD) workshops focusing on sustainability and climate justice.