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European Education Area

Quality education and training for all

Learning for the green transition and sustainable development

Europeans rank climate change among the most serious problems facing the world today. Education and training, like all sectors, must take action to respond to this planetary crisis.

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 act for a sustainable future.

EU actions

Council Recommendation on learning for the green transition and sustainable development

On 16 June 2022, the Council of the European Union (EU) adopted a Recommendation on learning for the green transition and sustainable development.

The Recommendation provides a roadmap for Member States on supporting learning and teaching for the green transition and sustainable development in all phases of education and training. It calls on Member States to

  • make learning for the green transition and sustainable development a priority in education and training policies and programmes
  • provide all learners with opportunities to learn about the climate crisis and sustainability in both formal education (for example, schools and higher education) and non-formal education (such as, extra-curricular activities, youth work)
  • mobilise national and EU funds to invest in green and sustainable equipment, resources and infrastructure
  • support educators in developing their knowledge and skills to teach about the climate crisis and sustainability, including dealing with eco-anxiety among their students
  • create supportive learning environments for sustainability that span all activities and operations by an educational institution and enable teaching and learning that is hands-on, interdisciplinary and relevant to local contexts
  • actively involve students and staff, local authorities, youth organisations and the research and innovation community in learning for sustainability

The European Commission will support the implementation of the Recommendation through peer learning and exchange on sustainability in education, including through a dedicated EU Working Group on this topic.

It will also develop resources for educators and policy-makers, including an online course for teachers on whole-school actions on sustainability, which will run from 19 September to 26 October 2022 on the new European School Education Platform.

Public Consultation

The Recommendation is based on a proposal put forward by the Commission on 14 January 2022. The proposal was developed 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 and organised a series of consultation events with organisations active in the field of education and the environment.

The exercise showed clearly that education and training have a key role in helping people understand and take action on environmental sustainability. The consultation demonstrated that learning for the green transition should be practical, hands-on, interdisciplinary and cross-curricular.

Handbook on Learning for the Green Transition

The Recommendation is supplemented by a Staff Working Document in the form of a handbook, which provides details and evidence for the Recommendation, including results from the public consultation.

The handbook highlights good practices from across Europe and provides concrete examples. It can serve as a guide for policy-makers, educators and all individuals and organisations working on environmental sustainability in the education and training sector.

European competence framework on sustainability

A new European competence framework on sustainability – ‘GreenComp’ – was published in January 2022. This framework can be used in edu­cation and training programmes and policies in formal, non-formal and informal settings.

The framework defines the four competence groups related to sustainability that should be acquired by learners of all ages. 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

Purpose of EU actions

The Recommendation 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 Commission’s proposal for the Council Recommendation, effective learning for sustainability

  • starts from early childhood education and care
  • takes a lifelong learning approach
  • creates supportive learning environments, as part of which 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 competencies
  • is founded on strong policies

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 competencies and skills, future-oriented curricula and planned approaches to sustainability by education providers.

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

The Commission will provide training opportunities and communities of practice for educators on the European School Education Platform.

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.