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European Education Area

Quality education and training for all

Learning for environmental sustainability

Education and training, like all sectors, must take action to respond to the climate emergency.

Learners of all ages need opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to live more sustainably, embrace healthier lifestyles and contribute – both individually and collectively – to the green transition.  

Acquiring sustainability competences, can help children, young people and adults to understand challenges related to climate change and the environment, reflect on their behaviours, and engage in action for a sustainable future.

EU actions

Proposal for a Council Recommendation

To boost cooperation between European Union (EU) Member States on education and training for the green transition, on 14 January 2022 the European Commission put forward a proposal for a Council Recommendation on learning for environmental sustainability.

The proposal for a Council Recommendation is now being discussed by Member States under the French Presidency of the Council of the EU. It should be adopted by EU education ministers in the first half of 2022.

Staff Working Document

An accompanying Staff Working Document in the form of a handbook provides details and evidence for the proposed Recommendation, including results from the public consultation, which helped prepare the initiative.

European competence framework on sustainability

The proposal is accompanied by a new European competence framework on sustainability.

The European sustainability competence framework – ‘GreenComp’ – can be used in edu­cation and training programmes and policies in formal, non-formal and informal settings.

The framework defines the four competence groups that should be acquired by learners of all ages related to sustainability. Each competence has three sub-parts

Embodying sustainability values

  • valuing sustainability
  • supporting fairness
  • promoting nature

Embracing complexity in sustainability

  • systems thinking
  • critical thinking
  • problem framing

Acting for sustainability

  • political agency
  • collective action
  • individual initiative

Envisioning sustainable futures

  • futures literacy
  • adaptability
  • exploratory thinking

Public consultation

The proposal for a Council Recommendation was developed during 2021 in close collaboration with experts and stakeholders from across Europe and beyond, including research institutions, youth representatives, educators, policy makers and non-governmental organisations.

In June 2021, the Commission launched a public consultation to gather input and ideas for the proposal.

 A series of consultation events with organisations active in the field of education and the environment was also organised. 

Supporting documents

A literature review on sustainability competences was carried out to support the preparation of the European competence framework on sustainability. 

A study mapping approaches by EU countries to environmental sustainability in education contributed to the preparation of the proposal for a Council Recommendation.

Purpose of EU actions

The proposal and the new framework aim to support Member States in their efforts to

  • equip learners and educators with the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for the green transition
  • support education and training institutions to integrate sustainability into teaching and learning and across all aspects of their operations
  • create a shared understanding on the deep and transformative changes needed in education and training for the green transition

Characteristics of sustainability education

As set out in the Recommendation, effective learning for environmental sustainability

  • starts from early childhood education and care
  • takes a lifelong learning approach
  • creates supportive learning environments where the institution as a whole is active on sustainability
  • is learner-centred, engaging, positive and based on real-life experiences
  • supports educators, including leadership teams, to teach and act for sustainability
  • fosters collaboration and partnerships in local and wider communities
  • involves young people in meaningful ways
  • builds sustainability competences
  • is founded on strong policies

Action recommended by Member States

The Commission's proposal calls on Member States to

  • provide opportunities for all learners to understand and take action on climate change, biodiversity and sustainability
  • establish learning for environmental sustainability as a priority area in education and training to support and enable the sector to contribute to the green transition
  • invest in green and sustainable equipment, resources, buildings and grounds for learning, socialising and recreation to ensure healthy and resilient learning environments
  • encourage and support whole-institution approaches to sustainability which encompass
    • teaching and learning
    • vision
    • planning and governance
    • active involvement of students and staff
    • management of buildings and resources
    • partnerships with local and wider communities
  • mobilise national and EU funds for investment in infrastructure, training, tools and resources to increase resilience and preparedness of education and training for the green transition

Funding and support

The 2021-2027 Erasmus+ programme places a strong focus on the green transition in education and training.

In the 2022 annual work programme, priority is given to projects developing green competences and skills, future-oriented curricula and planned approaches to sustainability by education providers.

A specific call for large-scale projects will offer funding to identify, develop and test innovative approaches to learning for environmental sustainability.

The Commission will also provide training opportunities and communities of practice for educators through School Education Gateway and eTwinning.

Background

The Recommendation is an initiative of the European Education Area and the EU Biodiversity Strategy. 

The Commission’s policy work on learning for sustainability aligns fully with initiatives and programmes underway by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on education for sustainable development, as well as the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.