On 10 December 2020, the European Commission held the 3rd European Education Summit gathering online members states’ representatives and key stakeholders, including policymakers, educators and learners. This year’s edition was dedicated to Digital Education transformation and in particular, offered the participants the opportunity to take a deep dive into the future perspectives on Education and Training and share concretes ideas on how to best deliver on the Commission flagship’s initiatives, namely the European Education Area and the Digital Education Action Plan.
The Summit was opened by a speech from the European Commission President, Mrs Ursula von der Leyen, during which she stressed the essential aspect of education for EU’s economic recovery and acknowledged the significant work of teachers and trainers, especially in times of pandemic. Among the highlights of the Summit, the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, announced the launch of new initiatives aiming to foster cooperation at the European level and leading to a greener and high performing digital transformation of our education systems. Firstly, the Education for Climate Coalition will mobilise the whole education community to support actions in favour of climate neutrality and sustainable development. Secondly, the New European Digital Education Hub will link regional and national digital education initiatives and foster collaboration across sectors and borders and serve as a focal point for digital education at the EU level. Thirdly, Commissioner Gabriel plans to launch the 25 Teachers Erasmus Academies, along with a European platform with high-quality education content dedicated to teachers. To achieve this, a feasibility study will be conducted in June 2021. These new initiatives will be supported by EU funds and in particular, by the new Erasmus plus programme. To this regard, Commissioner Gabriel specifically urged the Members States to make the most of the Recovery and Resilience Facility instrument to improve their digital infrastructures and equipment and to put education at the core of this, since the Erasmus programme alone won’t be enough to support the achievement of those ambitious goals.
The Summit opened the door to several parallel high-level panel discussions. During one of these panel discussions, EFEE’s General Secretary, Mr Daniel Wisniewski, gave more insight into which competencies and support teachers and school need to make blended learning a success for every learner. Moreover, Mr Wisniewski touched upon the lessons drawn from the Covid-19 crisis, most importantly those learnt from the acceleration of the use of digital tools in the classrooms. Mr Wisniewski stated that blended teaching methodologies supported by the digital tools, will significantly transform the teaching professions, in other words, they will become the first facilitators of the new learning process. The new technologies (including AI and big data) will also represent the opportunity to reduce the teacher’s administrative burden and help them monitor pupil’s individual progress, stressing that many of these practices will continue to be implemented after the crisis and that it shall not necessarily take place at home.
Finally, Commissioner Gabriel closed the Summit together with Mr Tiago Brando Rodrigues, Portuguese Minister of Education and Mr Manuel Heitor, Minister of Technology and Higher Education. In their closing remarks, they shared their priorities and objectives for the education and training sector, as well as looked forward to the Portuguese Presidency, which will start in January 2021. Three major events concerning the education sector will take place under this Presidency, first the informal Council on Education on 22 January 2021, second the Social Summit in May 2021 and third the launch of the new Erasmus plus programme on June 18th, 2021.