What did the EU education ministers discuss?

The meeting looked at the impacts of the pandemic on education and training in Europe and at promoting technical and vocational education and training (TVET) to a greater extent in the EU. The Commission’s Skills Agenda was also presented. It is an ambitious umbrella initiative in the TVET sector.

“Our meeting demonstrates that exchange and intensive cooperation within the EU are continuing in spite of the pandemic. In these two days we have together moved the EU forward in the important areas of education and training,” said Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek at the close of the informal meeting in Osnabrück.

Impacts of the pandemic on general education and TVET

The COVID-19 pandemic has massively challenged the education systems in EU member states. For this reason, education ministers discussed the different measures they have taken to respond to the pandemic in the education sector. They took stock of the impacts for the first time together. They focused in particular on digital inclusion, mobile learning and digitalisation in TVET.

Osnabrück Declaration on TVET

With the two sides of European industry and the European Commission, the ministers discussed a paper for an innovative, effective, future-proof TVET system, the Osnabrück Declaration.

In the Osnabrück Declaration the member states set themselves four ambitious objectives for TVET in the EU. They aim to:

  1. Boost economic resilience
  2. Together establish a culture of advanced training
  3. Mainstream sustainability in TVET
  4. Reinforce and promote the international dimension, with cross-border mobility.

Osnabrück saw the launch of efforts to further develop TVET in the European Union. The Declaration will now be the basis for further consultations. The goal is for the Osnabrück Declaration to be signed at the Education Council meeting in November.

Presentation of the Skills Agenda for Europa

The European Commission, represented by Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, presented the European Skills Agenda. This is an important umbrella initiative of the European Commission to secure jobs in Europe through training.

What are Germany’s objectives in the education sector during its Presidency of the Council of the European Union?

The German government wants to make education, across the entire sector, more digital. Digital skills are indispensable in order to participate fully in social, economic and societal life. We also aim to look at the importance of networked education.

The German government aims to demonstrate that TVET is an equally valuable alternative to an academic education. We would thus like to develop TVET in the EU to a greater degree and make it innovative, effective and future-proof.

The German government also wants to work to achieve rapid agreement on the Erasmus+ programme. We aim to swiftly finalise negotiations with the European Parliament. This is our joint responsibility. The Erasmus programme is one of the most important and most successful European initiatives.

How is Germany strengthening education during the pandemic?

The German government is responding with a large number of measures to strengthen education during the pandemic. The most important and largest-scale measures include earmarking large sums to advance digitalisation in schools, alongside the nationwide programme to secure traineeships.

Digitalisation of schools

Under the digital compact for schools, the German government is providing a total of six billion euro to the federal states to enable them to develop digital learning infrastructure at all general and vocational schools in Germany. In addition to the originally pledged five billion euro in federal funding, the digital compact for schools has received an additional two COVID-19 assistance top-ups, each worth 500 million euro.

The first of these is the immediate equipment programme worth 500 million euro for digital devices that are to be made available to schoolchildren without access to digital devices. The second is a pledge of an additional 500 million euro under the recovery and future package. This sum is to expand the investments deemed eligible for assistance under the digital compact as well as funding the federal government’s future involvement in training and financing IT administrators.

In addition, the federal and state governments recently agreed that the federal government would support federal states with a large-scale procurement programme worth another 500 million euro, focusing on digital equipment for teachers and other projects.

Federal programme to secure traineeships

The German government is securing traineeships that are jeopardised by the pandemic. A sum of 500 million euro has been earmarked for the federal programme, Ausbildungsplätze Sichern (in English, Securing Traineeships). This year and next year it will support small and medium enterprises with a workforce of up to 249, in order to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the market for traineeships. The federal programme is also to ensure that skilled workers are available in the coming years.