Ahead of the International Day of Education on 24 January, the European Commission and High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell made the following statement:
“Access to education is a fundamental human right. It is vital for the personal, social and professional development of children and young people. It empowers them to survive, thrive, and rise to meet everyday challenges. It is essential to building peace and democracy, socio-economic cohesion and gender equality, and more just and sustainable societies.
Within and beyond our borders, the European Union remains firmly committed to accelerating progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) on quality education. Quality education is the smartest and most powerful investment in our shared future.
Yet, collective progress is stalling and attacks against education are increasing worldwide. In many parts of the world, gender-based discrimination and violence and other systematic barriers still keep and force girls, minorities, and displaced and refugee children out of school.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban have completely denied girls and women their fundamental right to education. Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine has resulted in at least 3,045 educational facilities suffering bombing or shelling since 24 February 2022. The EU strongly condemns all attacks against education and expects all children and young people to be guaranteed their right to education.
There is an urgent need to ensure financing for education and future-oriented learning, which the COVID-19 pandemic greatly exacerbated, Across the world, two in three 10-year-olds cannot read and understand a simple story and 840 million teenagers will leave school without any qualifications for the workplace of the future.
But there is reason for optimism. During the UN Transforming Education Summit in September 2022, 133 countries, including the EU and its Member States as Team Europe, committed to recover learning losses and make education systems fit for the future. Now it is time for all to turn words into deeds by investing in concrete, transformative actions for education. The European Union has significantly increased its external investments in education and is ready to closely cooperate with partner countries as they deliver on their commitments. The EU’s first-ever Youth Action Plan in EU External Action reiterates EU’s commitment to invest at least 10% of the overall funding of Global Europe and of its humanitarian aid budget to education. This includes support to the implementation of the UN-sponsored Youth Declaration on Transforming Education, engaging, empowering and connecting young people.
Over 35 years, the EU Erasmus+ programme for education and training has made it possible for almost 13 million participants – students, staff, teachers, and trainees – to learn, work or train abroad, and for schools, universities and institutions to cooperate across borders. These opportunities are open for people from all over the world who, as “EU Alumni“, will benefit from this learning experience and networks throughout their lives. The EU also works with partner countries to strengthen cooperation on research and innovation, for example through the Horizon Europe programme. Moreover, the EU is putting significant efforts in making education systems fit for the green transformation and the digital age.
The EU welcomes the launch of the Global Commission on the Teaching Profession. Teachers are central to improving the quality of learning and ensure resilient education systems. This is why supporting teachers, and improving the attractiveness of teaching as a profession, is a key investment priority under the EU’s Global Gateway strategy. In particular, through the Regional Teachers’ Initiative for Africa, the EU will invest €100 million in empowering the world’s fastest growing youth population through quality education.
Together, the EU and its Member States will continue devoting our efforts to put SDG 4 on quality education back in track.”
The EU institutions and Member States together contribute more than half of all global aid to education, supporting the education sector in more than 100 countries around the world.
During the period 2021–2027, the European Commission will dedicate at least 10% of its international partnerships budget with Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia and the Pacific to education, supporting quality teachers, 21st century life and work skills, inclusive and equitable education systems that are ready to support the digital and green transitions, opportunity driven vocational education and training, and higher education and mobility.
The EU remains at the forefront of the international mobilisation for education in emergencies, with 10% of its humanitarian aid budget dedicated to education and supporting safe, inclusive and quality education for millions of children affected by humanitarian crises and conflicts.
The EU will continue engaging, as a priority, with the Western Balkans, Turkey and the Neighbourhood regions to strengthen education systems, addressing skills mismatch with the labour market and enhancing joint cooperation with education institutions including mobility of students and teachers.