A European pillar of social rights
In December 2017, the European Council, European Parliament and the Commission endorsed the adoption of the European Pillar of social rights. The agreement highlights the importance of the social, educational and cultural dimensions of EU policies for bulding a common European future.
The first principle of the European Pillar of social rights underlines that:
Everyone has the right to quality and inclusive education, training and life-long learning in order to maintain and acquire skills that enable them to participate fully in society and manage successfully transitions in the labour market.
Promoting equity, social cohesion and active citizenship is one of the strategic objectives for cooperation in education and training at the EU-level. The Commission and the Council’s 2015 joint report on implementing the ET 2020 strategy has established ‘inclusive education, equality, equity, non-discrimination and the promotion of civic competences’ as priority areas for European cooperation in the field of education and training.
The Europe 2020 strategy and ET 2020 have set two main targets to be achieved across Europe by 2020:
- the rate of early leavers from education and training aged 18-24 should be below 10%
- at least 40% of people aged 30-34 should have completed some form of higher education
In its contribution to the Gothenburg Social Summit, the European Commission set out its vision for a European Education Area. This initiative stresses the value of good quality, inclusive education from childhood in laying the groundwork for social cohesion, social mobility and an equitable society.
This vision was further supported in a Commission Communication on the role of youth, education and cultural policies in building a stronger Europe, which stated that one of the objectives of the European Education Area should be to support EU Member States in improving the inclusive nature of their education and training systems.
Following proposals from the Commission, several policy initiatives have already been adopted:
- Key Competences for Lifelong Learning (Council Recommendation)
- promoting common values, inclusive education and the European dimension of teaching (Council Recommendation)
In May 2018, the Commission adopted a proposal for a new Erasmus+ programme, doubling the programme’s budget. The new programme is expected to enable millions more young Europeans from all social backgrounds to study, train and learn abroad and will also include a European inclusion framework and national inclusion strategies.
The EU’s role in achieving inclusive education
Member States' progress towards achieving inclusive education is monitored through the European Semester process and the Education and Training Monitor. The Monitor also provides evidence on the role of education in fighting inequalities and promoting social inclusion.
The Commission has also been implementing a wide range of actions in this field, such as:
- establishing an ET 2020 Working Group on Promoting Common Values and Inclusive Education, which has produced a concise online compendium of good practices in this field which can be accessed on Yammer
- an initiative involving positive role models to promote social inclusion, and to prevent exclusion and violent radicalisation among young people
- a toolkit for youth workers working with young people at risk of marginalisation
- the European Award for Social Inclusion through Sport
Furthermore, the Erasmus+ programme supports initiatives and activities to develop innovative policies and practices at grass-roots level that prioritise social inclusion.
The Commission is working on the following developments:
- expanding the European Toolkit for Schools, an online platform for schools and teachers. The toolkit offers examples of good practices and resources for introducing collaborative approaches in schools to improve inclusivity and provide equal opportunities
- the expansion of the online eTwinning platform, which aims to connect teachers and classrooms across Europe and to support teacher training courses on citizenship education
- providing incentives for higher education institutions to award credits for volunteering and the development of curricula that combine academic content with civic engagement
- the implementation of the European Solidarity Corps, an EU initiative that creates opportunities for young people to volunteer or work on projects, in their own country or abroad, which have community or regional benefit
- the further roll-out of Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange which allow young people in Europe and the Southern Mediterranean to engage in meaningful intercultural experiences online, as part of their formal or non-formal education