On 23 and 24 November the EYCS Council took place, where the ministers approved 6 documents.
On Thursday 23 November, ministers from all EU member states met in Brussels to address the fields of education and youth, on Friday 24 November they focused on the fields of sport and culture. During the two-day meeting, they approved several documents that deepen European cooperation in the given areas.
Education - digitalisation, European values and democratic citizenship
Three important documents were approved in the field of education. The Council's conclusions on the contribution of education and training to strengthening common European values and democratic citizenship emphasize the support for the development of citizenship education and a sense of belonging at the local, regional, national and European levels. They also highlight the promotion of media literacy, critical thinking, promoting the rights of children and young people to be heard, or improving knowledge about the EU and its history.
At the same time, the ministers approved two recommendations in the field of digital education, which cover all areas of education and follow the two strategic priorities of the Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027. The Recommendation on the key enabling factors for successful digital education and training identifies 4 key factors that are essential for successful digital education. The first of them is a strategic approach to the issue and support for the creation of national strategies, including mechanisms and methods for evaluating and monitoring the progress achieved. As the second key factor the recommendation cites comprehensive coordination at the national level, support for synergies and the involvement of all relevant stakeholders, including the private sector and e.g. EdTech companies and enterprises. Furthermore, it is necessary to focus on building the capacities of both organizations and school leaders, educators and administrative employees. This can be achieved e.g. by supporting lifelong professional development or by introducing digital pedagogy into programs that educate and prepare teachers. Last but not least, the recommendation mentions investments in high-quality, resilient and inclusive digital education among the key factors. Investments should have the greatest possible impact, and should be aimed at e.g. high-speed internet connection in schools, ensuring digital equipment for schools or creating quality digital content. To support this process, the European Commission will create a space for information sharing and mutual inspiration and prepare a handbook on the topic of ensuring quality accessible digital education, content and tools. Last but not least, the Commission also supports increased transparency and evaluation of the impact of all measures taken.
The Council Recommendation on improving the provision of digital skills and competences in education and training addresses this topic at all levels of education and for all EU citizens. In this context, Member States should have national strategies that take into account the involvement of all relevant actors and they should also focus on the identification of priority and most vulnerable population groups. Member States should ensure that these groups are not disadvantaged in terms of access to gaining digital skills and competences. The recommendation mentions measures to support basic and advanced skills from kindergartens, through primary and secondary schools, to higher education, lifelong adult education and informal youth education. The document also emphasizes the importance of supporting interdisciplinarity, the teaching of informatics and computational thinking, and the professional development of teachers, including cooperation with experts from the private sector. As regards advanced digital skills, Member States should focus on training specialists in fields facing labor shortages, for example through specialized programs at universities and vocational schools. Closely related to skills is the support for the recognition of qualifications and relevant forms of certification of acquired knowledge, career counseling and ensuring gender equality. In this context, the European Commission will launch a pilot verification of the European Digital Skills Certificate, which will, in cooperation with the Member States, verify the minimum criteria and requirements that any certificate should have.
Ministers also discussed how to attract talented women to the STEAM fields and where, according to them, the biggest challenges remain in reducing the gender gap in these fields.
Youth - mental health and participation in decision-making processes
In the field of youth, the Council adopted Conclusions on a comprehensive approach to the mental health of young people in the EU, which is based on the European Youth Strategy 2019-2027 and focuses on addressing mental problems of young people. The Council's conclusions mention, among other things, possible preventive measures and the need to ensure young people's access to mental health care services. Last but not least, the conclusions call on Member States to raise awareness of mental health issues.
The second adopted document are the Council Conclusions on promoting youth mainstreaming in policy decision-making processes in the EU. This topic is currently at the forefront of many debates at the European level, the aim of which is to support young people so that their voice is taken into account in public policies at the European level. The Council conclusions follow on the results of the European Year of Youth and emphasize that the participation of young people in the political process should be instrumental for future development.
Sport - women's equality
During the Council meeting, the Ministers also adopted the Council conclusions on women and equality in the field of sport. The Council underlines the importance of ensuring access to safe, inclusive and equal conditions without any form of inequality, including equal pay for equal work in professional sport. According to the latest data, women are still underrepresented in sports, mainly due to socio-cultural obstacles. The findings also highlight the assumption that more female role models would inspire more young girls to take up sport. They therefore recommend that Member State, for example, support the increase in the proportion of women in management positions in sports, prevention of harassment and sexual violence, support media coverage of women's sports competitions without stereotypes, or take the gender aspect into account in sports infrastructure.
More information concerning the Council meeting can be found at the Council of the EU website.