The Council of the EU adopted two documents as a result of negotiations led by the Czech Presidency of the Council.
On Monday and Tuesday 28-29 November, the Council of the EU for Education, Youth, Culture and Sport took place in Brussels under the Czech Presidency. The ministers discussed, among other things, the European Education Area at a time of Russian aggression against Ukraine and the European Year of Youth.
On 28 November, the Council also adopted two documents - the Council Recommendation on the Pathways to School Success initiative and the Council Conclusions on promoting well-being in digital education.
The Council Recommendation on the Pathways to School Success Initiative
The Council Recommendation "Pathways to School Success" contains a number of concrete measures aimed at tackling early school leaving and raising the school success rate of all pupils.
Statistics from 2021 show that across the EU, on average, more than a fifth of 15-year-olds are underperforming in basic skills - 22.5% in reading, 22.9% in maths and 22.3% in science (Education and Training Monitor 2021). Ministers agreed that the proportion of underachieving pupils should fall to at least 15%, a target they aim to reach by 2030. Drop-out rates in the EU now average around 10%, close to the target of 9%. In addition, only 84.3% of 20-24-year-olds have completed upper secondary education (e.g. upper secondary, secondary or other ISCED level 3 equivalents) (Eurostat, 2020) - a figure the Council would also like to change.
The Recommendation focuses on pupils and other learners, but it also takes into account teachers, teaching staff and other school staff. It includes both prevention and intervention measures and various compensatory measures (e.g. enhanced guidance and career support for those who have left education and need to re-enter). Ministers agreed that Member States must take a strategic approach to promoting school success and strive to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to succeed and reach their potential - regardless of their family, cultural and socio-economic background, which is often a decisive factor.
Read the Council's press release.
The Council Conclusions on promoting well-being in digital education
The Council Conclusions on promoting well-being in digital education are a non-legally binding text agreed by the Member States intended to make a selected topic more visible at the European level. The Council Conclusions focus on promoting digital skills for pupils and teachers and on creating a safe digital environment with regard to mental health. Thus, they are the first strategic document at the European level to address this topic.
The Council Conclusions focus on pupils (and teachers) at the primary and secondary levels, including VET. Digital well-being is understood as the physical, cognitive, social and emotional well-being that enables all, without distinction, to engage in digital learning, make the most meaningful use of digital methods and tools and navigate safely in the digital environment.
The Conclusions focus on quality and inclusiveness in digital learning (including advanced digital skills) and on the digital divide and its challenges. They mention the opportunities but also the risks of digital learning and the need to know how to deal with them. Among the opportunities, they include, for example, the introduction of new teaching methods and new digital tools that can help to integrate migrants into the classroom or help with the education of pupils with special needs. As risks, they mention cyberbullying or feeling of isolation from society. They, therefore, encourage the development of digital skills, media literacy, critical thinking and the meaningful use of digital technologies - always bearing in mind that the aim is not for technology to replace teachers, but to serve as a means to support pupils' learning. This is the reason why the Conclusions also emphasize the development of digital skills for teachers and educators.
The Conclusions specify three pillars - digital skills and competencies, the learning environment and the tools, methods and processes used, and interpersonal relationships in the digital environment. They call on the European Commission to support research and studies on the impact of the use of digital technologies on pupils and teachers, and the creation and sharing of high-quality professional development for teachers and educators. The Commission should also promote well-being through European programmes such as Erasmus+, Horizon Europe, Digital Europe and others. The Conclusions call on Member States to promote digital well-being in the development of national education policies, to raise awareness of this topic and to find ways to promote digital literacy and critical thinking or to strike a balance between digital and face-to-face education. Member States should also inspire and motivate schools to apply an institution-wide approach that systematically promotes digital well-being.
For more information, including the Conclusions themselves, see the Council press release.