Earlier this month Advenio eAcademy represented by its Executive director, Mr. Stephen D’Alessandro, participated in the first European Education summit held in Brussels on the 25th January 2018. Hosted by Tibor Navracsics, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, the Summit brought together EU education ministers, education practitioners, stakeholders and business leaders. The event comprised a series of plenary sessions with high level panel speakers followed by a number of parallel workshop sessions to allow for more detailed analysis of particular aspects of the topics covered in the plenary sessions. The scope of the Summit was thus to explore four critical issues:
The first critical issue was how better to address inequality in education systems. Education systems are primarily a local government priority and over the years it has become clear that different governments give different priorities to different aspects of education. Even within individual member countries, the result is that there are big differences in the quality of the educational services provided by many educational institutions. The need for greater consistency and a continued drive for improved quality was deemed to be essential.
The second critical issue dealt with how citizens can benefit from a future European Education Area. The tremendous contribution of the bologna Process which laid the foundations for the recognition of educational qualifications across Europe was seen as a crucial contribution towards the development of a European Education area in which common standards and best practices are more prevalent, giving students wider choices to broader learning options within both traditional academic and the more recent VET streams. This approach needed to meld both STEM and Arts subjects and not present students with an either or approach. The challenge was thus to integrate these into what was referred to as a STEAM approach, where all students were given appropriate foundations in both.
The third focused on how education can help transmit our common values. The resounding success of the Erasmus and Erasmus+ mobility programmes was given as a tangible example how the cultural shock of living and studying in a foreign country was a powerful lifelong learning experience for students. The general consensus being that more student exchanges should be encouraged, not only on an individual basis at tertiary level of education, but also at a school level at secondary and even primary levels. The exchange programmes were seen to be fundamental to giving students the opportunity to get first-hand experience and understand better the shared values and different cultures within Europe.
The fourth critical issue sought to identify what competences will be needed for the decades to come. The challenge in this regard was to focus on providing the skills through which students learnt to learn as today we did not know what needed to be learnt for tomorrow’s challenges. This approach called for more open approaches to formal education at all levels. It called for continued investment in upgrading the teaching profession to enable these front line personnel to better interact with students within systems and practices which recognized the importance of creativity and problem solving.
Congratulations to the Commissioner and organizing team for a very well organized event which presented excellent opportunities for exchange of ideas and discussion of best practices in the workshop classes.