Educational challenges: global and European dimension

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Celebration of this year’s International Day of Education, which takes place since 2018, was an opportunity to reveal global and European facilities to strengthen education as a public endeavor and “common good”, to steer the digital and green transitions, support teachers, safeguard the planet’s climate and unlock every person potential in contributing to common socio-economic progress and collective well-being. 

Education is seen globally and in Europe as a vital instrument in sustainable socio-economic development and national wellbeing: children and young people with basic and specific skills are likely to have better future. But the world has been changing and modern globalization required the “world population” to quickly adapt education systems with the new challenges and work with newer teaching online technologies.
International Education Day, IED-2022 has a notable theme: “Changing course, transforming education” with an additional stress on sustainable development in education around the world. The IED-2022, in part, presents a showcase “Global Schools Advocates” in visualizing a successful implementation of sustainable development projects in school communities in about 20 different countries. Thus, the IED-2022 has become a great occasion for education leaders and education policymakers to exchange best practices in bringing sustainable education into school and university curricula. Source:,nurtured%20to%20realize%20everyone’s%20fundamental

Global education: towards sustainability
Existing education systems have been substantially altered since the global sustainable agenda was adopted; presently, all states are required to take all necessary measures (“what it takes”) to implement UN sustainable development goals, SDGs by 2030.
Generally, these measures involve three spheres of national governance: social, environmental and economic; but none of them could be effective without adequate reforms in existing national education and training policies.
Sustainability, in general is not only new and complicated issue for any national governance’s system: educating the public is needed on all sustainability’s components, e.g. circular economy, green and digital transitions, nature protection and climate measures, etc. Thus, all states have to develop their own national SDGs implementation plans and strategies, including education.

Global and corporate efforts in education
In 2000, the United Nations adopted so-called “global compact” to encourage corporate entities and businesses in adopting sustainable and socially responsible approaches. Global education community was provided already in 2007 with a “good helping hand” through globally adopted principles for responsible management education (PRME), which was widely used since in corporate education. Education policies play vital roles in both educating future professionals in the “sustainability spirit” and providing business leaders with the present requirements for responsible and sustainable management.
Thus, “sustainability” enters numerous spheres of social and economic development from energy, transport and construction to consumption, trade and tourism, to name a few. It is not just a ply with words: it’s about fundamental changes in the current business ethics, in still prevailing consumers-oriented policies and industrial policies that are too slow to turn into bio- and circular patterns. In this regard, the PRME principles could serve as a feasible platform to elevate the sustainability’s agenda to the presently required level in universities and equip future professionals and business leaders with the “sustainably-oriented” skills.

The 17 SDGs (adopted by the UN Agenda in 2016) can be divided into two big groups, i.e. general and sectoral: in the former there are about nine SDGs, e.g. sustainable economic growth (SDG-8), sustainable infrastructure and innovation (SDG-9), sustainable consumption and production (SDG-12), climate change (SDG-13), oceans and marine resources (SDG-14), terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity (SDG-15), gender equality (SDG-5), and inclusive societies (SDG-16).
In the “sectoral group”, there could be included the following SDGs: sustainable agriculture (nr. 2), quality education (nr, 4), water management (nr. 6), as well as sustainable energy and cities (nr. 7 and nr. 11), and promoting health and well being (nr. 3). This SDGs “division” is purely personal and based on SDGs’ “generic importance” with a view to design some specific research areas in SDGs implementation.
One of the latest, before the covid-pandemic, the SDG-2019 international conference included among its topics the one for education for SDGs and higher education’s role in accelerating SDGs implementation and climate change mitigation.
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Global efforts in “new education”
Numerous international organisations are already active in the SDGs implementation, e.g. the UN bodies and agencies, the OECD, etc. Thus, the OECD provides a practical guidance for the so-called national “policy coherence for sustainable development”, which includes the following main “instruments” for decision-makers in the education policies: a) improving understanding of interactions and synergies among SDGs and national growth models; b) strengthening public/private institutional mechanisms in the SDGs integrative implementation, and c) monitoring and assessing progress in SDGs policy’ coherence. More in the OECD online policy toolkit at:
Most active international organisation in sustainable education is the UN special agency, UNESCO which regards the teacher’s education as a priority for the states. Within its special work program on education, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development together with UNESCO made significant efforts to help teachers worldwide not only to understand sustainable development concepts and issues but also to learn how to cope with interdisciplinary, values-laden subjects in established curricula; the program “Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future” has been UNESCO’s response to that challenge. This worldwide program reached teachers across the world and is used with “adaptations” to local, national and/or regional needs with numerous available translations.
To protect the well-being of children and ensure they have access to continued learning, UNESCO in March 2020 launched the COVID-19 Global Education Coalition, a multi-sector partnership among international communities, national governance, civil society organizations, as well as media and ICT sectors to design and deploy innovative solutions. Together they help countries in tackling content and connectivity gaps, facilitate inclusive learning opportunities for children and youth during post-pandemic period of unprecedented educational disruption.
The Global Education Coalition launched by UNESCO is a platform for collaboration and exchange to protect the right to education during this unprecedented disruption and beyond. It brings together more than 175 members from the UN family, civil society, academia and the private sector to ensure that “learning never stops”. The multi-sectoral coalition includes the following global “operational actions” through academies, campuses and “houses”: i.e. in skills academy, in teachers’ campus and learning houses. More in:

Education in sustainability: existing global framework
Actually, the UN global agenda’s approach is not for all educational problems and issues; therefore the SDG 4 is called “quality education” as a reflection of specific aspects in education challenges! The major aim of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) is to provide an inclusive and high quality education which will improve the learner’s standard of living, and the community’s future around the world.
A specific UN SDG 4 goal consists of 7 targets and 3 means of implementation (assisted by 12 indicators); eight of the targets/means are supposed to be achieved by 2030, one is to be achieved by 2020, the rest are “limitless”. Each of the targets has one or more indicators to measure progress. Ten targets-means include free primary and secondary education (4.1), equal access to quality pre-primary education (4.2), equal access to affordable technical, vocational and higher education (4.3), increase the number of people with relevant skills for financial success (4.4), eliminate all discrimination in education (4.5), universal literacy and numeracy (4.6), education for sustainable development and global citizenship (4.7), build and upgrade inclusive and safe schools (4.a), expand higher education scholarships for developing countries (4.b) and increase the supply of qualified teachers in developing countries (4.c).
For example, the target “universal primary and secondary education” means: provision of 12 years of free, publicly-funded, inclusive, equitable, quality primary and secondary education ensured for all, with at least nine years in compulsory one, leading to relevant learning outcomes. In “relevant skills for decent work”, the following measures shall be involved: Beyond work-specific skills, emphasis must be placed on developing high-level cognitive and non-cognitive/transferable skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, teamwork, communication skills and conflict resolution.
In “teachers and educators” target, the model approach depicts that teachers are the key to achieving all of the SDG-4 targets; it requires urgent attention, as equity gap in education worldwide is exacerbated by the shortage and uneven distribution of professionally trained teachers. “As teachers are a fundamental condition for guaranteeing quality education, teachers and educators should be empowered, adequately recruited and remunerated, motivated, professionally qualified, and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems”, acknowledges the SDG-4. Source and citations from:

The EU-wide education strategy
The EU institutions and the member states together contribute more than half of all global aid to education, supporting the education sector in more than 100 countries in the world. During the period 2021–2027, the European Commission will dedicate at least 10% of its international partnerships budget to countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, and 10% of its humanitarian aid budget to education. The European Commission will also 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. Quality education is a vital part of the development of every child and young person.
Education is a fundamental right and a foundation of successful, resilient and welfare societies; it is the basis and a catalyst for the green and digital transition in Europe. Besides, it is essential to the global recovery and achievement of all UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. With Europe’s “digital decade” the EU-27 is working towards an ambitious but quite attainable target: by 2030 at least 80% of all adults should have basic digital skills.
At the EU level, the EU institutions’ efforts are aimed at two main goals: supporting universities in shaping sustainable and resilient economies, and making member states’ societies greener, more inclusive and more digital.
In the European strategy for universities, excellent and inclusive universities are regarded as a paramount condition and foundation for open, democratic, fair and sustainable societies while providing a background for sustained growth, entrepreneurship and employment.

EU University’s strategy
Among recent EU education strategy measures, most vivid are: first, a couple of administrative initiatives: a) so-called the EEA’s “education initiative” (European Education Area, since 2018-19) aimed at structuring collaboration among the EU-27 states and interested partners in creating more resilient and inclusive national education systems. EU resolution (February 2021) outlined a strategic framework for EEA for the period 2021-2030, which included: supporting the member states in their education and training systems reforms; enhancing synergies with other policy areas such as research and innovation, social policy, employment or youth, and with EU funding instruments to better support national reforms; and identifying targets and indicators to guide work and monitor progress in education.
b) the so-called “research initiative”, i.e. aimed at creating a new European Area for Research and Innovation (EARI); both initiatives are aimed at facilitating and reinforcing transnational cooperation among universities to strengthen their capacities to equip young people, lifelong learners and researchers with the right competences and skills. These goals will also mainstream a culture of European excellence in education, research and science and value knowledge creation amongst higher education institutions, improving attractiveness and global competitiveness. Source:

Second, is the Commission’s university initiative revealed in a Communication on “European strategy for universities” (January 2022), which suggested a set of actions for supporting reforms in the EU-27 universities. The reforms are aimed at reaching the following four objectives:
• strengthening the European dimension in higher education and research,
• consolidating universities as the focal points in the “European way of life” coped with supporting actions focusing on academic and research careers, quality and relevance for future-proof skills, diversity, inclusion, democratic practices, fundamental rights and academic values;
• empowering universities as key actors of change in the twin green and digital transition, and
• reinforcing universities as drivers of Europe’s global role and leadership in education.
Source: Communication “on a European strategy for universities”, adopted by the Commission, the Parliament, the Council, the ECOSOC and COR in Strasbourg on 18 January 2022; Doc. SWD (2022) 6 final.
Note. The term “university” in Europe is used as a reference to a broader sector, representing the entire area of tertiary education, incl. all types of higher education institutions, research universities, university colleges, universities of applied sciences, higher vocational education and training institutions, as well as higher arts institutions.

Finally, the EU has occasionally designated 2022 the European Year of Youth; in its turn, the latter coincided with the 35th anniversary of the Erasmus program, which reaffirms importance of quality education for young people, adult, for social and professional growth aimed at creating better and more equitable societies, reducing inequalities and promoting democracy. However, the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in education with a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged groups: about 260 million children and adolescents worldwide are not receiving education.
Presently active the European Erasmus+ program is aimed at facilitating mobility of students, teachers’ staff and trainees, as well as strengthening the networks and peer learning across higher education institutions. These opportunities are open for people from all over the world and the EU-27 will work with partner countries to strengthen cooperation on research and innovation, for example through Horizon Europe. These initiatives align with the Global Gateway strategy’s provisions for people-to-people connectivity.
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