One of the most important among modern “operational” tasks in national education systems is providing EU citizens with the skills needed to deal with modern climate and digital transitions. However, the main implementing tasks rest upon the states; besides, these twin-directions in national development have to follow the EU’s political guidelines and a general European socio-economic strategy in integration.
The second article in the series of the European “education revolution” is devoted to analysis of trends and practical implications in the states of the EU supporting and coordinating measures in transforming national education policies towards recovery and resilience. As soon as perspective growth patterns in the member states are subject to contemporary global/European challenges in political priorities they are (besides pressures from post-pandemic circumstances) in great deal depend on: a) modernized socio-economic priorities (e.g. in part, instigated by the EU dual digital-climate transformations and revised workers’ qualifications), and b) active involvement of sustainable goals education’s paradigm in schools and universities in line with the transformed national priorities.
History and perspectives
The European twin transition is based on two premises: a) the EU-27 decided to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, i.e. in this regard the states have to adopt growth policies aimed at modern and resource-efficient economy (so-called “green deal” between the EU and the states); b) the EU’s digital development strategy will empower EU citizens and businesses with a new generation of technologies through the so-called “Europe fit for digital age” program.
The EU’s twin transition has its roots in a decade old global constructive actions oriented towards sustainability and climate change in governance and education systems. Achieving socio-economic transformation, the EU member states need both broader SDGs implementation and stable long-term strategies set by the Paris Climate Agreement; the latter obliged the states to take resolute measures in reduce pollution and increase sustainable growth. Thus, all “parties” to the Paris Agreement presented in 2020 for review their mid-century and long-term low greenhouse gas emission and development strategies.
Note on Paris Agreement: the agreement sets out a world-wide framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. It also aims to strengthen countries’ ability to deal with the impacts of climate change and support them in their efforts. The agreement is the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate change agreement, adopted at the Paris climate conference in December 2015. The EU-27 are among about 190 states joining the Paris Agreement; the EU ratified the agreement in October 2016 and it entered into force on 4 November 2016.
EU political priorities “orient” the member states’ governance towards most optimal and competitive growth patterns; however it is up to the states to chose appropriate priority lines. E.g. in the Baltic States the transformation of energy sector is undoubtedly a priority in transition to sustainable economic model and the net-zero emissions targets. These priorities, while reflecting global/European challenges, mean that serious structural changes in employment in the energy sector and in the re-skilling of employees will be needed. In addition to the thousands of new jobs in renewables, the re-skilling process in education and training will also benefit the employment rates in other sectors, such as construction and manufacturing.
Note. While looking into the role of vital industrial issues in national growth, one has to remember that industry, together with the education and science, is in the EU supporting competence; some pertaining ideas on the issue could be found in the following web-links: https://www.integrin.dk/2022/01/06/modern-european-industrial-policy-through-challenges-and-reforms/; and https://www.integrin.dk/2022/01/08/european-industrial-policy-implementing-reforms-in-the-member-states-ii/.
European “green transition”
The European “green deal” as an integral part of the “twin transition” (together with the digital agenda for economy and society) is a key to both the national recovery and resilience plans (RRPs) and progressive European integration. Among numerous political, economic and scientific guidelines to tackle the whole set of “green deal” issues (GDIs) in the member states, there is something that needs additional attention: it is about main theoretical and practical aspects in a reformed education policy at national schools and universities’ level which is a prerequisite of any success in implementing both the SDGs and the GDIs, in particular.
Thus, the states have to take all necessary efforts to adapt these new challenges through adequate education, science, research and innovation; these efforts, due to their fundamental nature, are often termed new European “education revolution”. Besides, the reason for active national efforts in this direction lies in the fact that education policy is the states’ competence, according to the EU Treaties (art. 6, TFEU).
All the GDIs implementation are based on “active accommodation” of traditional skills (hardly surviving) and newly appearing skills in several new and modernised sectors of economy: these efforts’ practical implementation will take time and considerable resources. It is clear that a vital supplement in these “resources”, serving as an “operational pivotal instrument”, include science, research and innovation coped with new system of educating and training “newly formed” EU’s employment and workforce.
The European Green Deal, introduced in December 2019 by the European Commission, aims to make Europe climate-neutral, resource-efficient, innovative, and socially inclusive. Therefore, the European leadership has committed to include both in the European Semester (with the alignment process of the states’ budget and the EU economic policy rules) and the strategic guidelines in various policy areas of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the UN Agenda 2030. The latter has become since 2016, a globally accepted pledge for sustainable development, which includes three basic developmental pillars– economic, social, and environmental. Moreover, the EU has responded to the pandemic’s consequences on health, environment, and economy with a generous “Next Generation EU” package of funds and mobilizing policies, to support the economic recovery, while pursuing Europe’s green and digital transition.
Most vital in the so-called “green deal” is revealing the practical steps in transforming the member states’ economies and societies towards climate-neutral and sustainable paths as the biggest modern challenge. Thus the “deal” includes the integral involvement of national climate mitigation efforts into new socio-economic development models, providing a blueprint for adequate transformational changes. All EU-27 states have committed to turn their economies into the climate-neutral position by 2050 and reduce harmful emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. Besides, the “deal” is creating new opportunities for innovation, investment and jobs, as well as in reducing emissions’ rates, in creating employment opportunities, in addressing energy poverty, reducing external energy dependency, improving public health and increase peoples’ wellbeing.
Note: certain EU investment priorities and opportunities can be seen in the Commission’s web-link at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal/delivering-european-green-deal_en
Climate change issues are having “bad time” in modern education policies: although being a major socio-economic issue, it still particularly lacking adequate coverage in higher education curricula. There is a definite need for more interdisciplinary and accessible teaching and learning incorporating climate change policies. But the “clime inclusion” is going to be through a complex approach: i.e. with a due attention to sustainability, circular economy and social consequences; as climate change has significant effects on various socio-economic growth patterns, which are not so easy to include into curricular.
More in: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=2022012509225275.
Digital economy and society
In 2021, the Commission initiated the 2020s as Europe’s Digital Decade; two main directions were suggested:
a) huge investment into the “digital society-economy paradigm”; the EU’s recovery plan (NextGenerationEU) with over € 125 billion represents not only massive resources for recovery and resilience in the member states’ economies, but is also a kind of “Marshall Plan” for digital European societies and economies.
b) creating a new rulebook for Europe’s Digital Decade, which consists of two elements: the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act; both acts include the EU’s basic principles for all digital companies in Europe. This legal background creates a level playing field for all businesses and specifying clear rights for all users. Besides, with the “Artificial Intelligence Act”, the EU has created a “guard-rail” for one of the most crucial modern digital technologies: i.e. to assist all companies and programmers in keeping advances and innovation directions with the EU’s expanded investment in AI.
Note. The winner of last year’s Future Unicorn Award in the Digital Europe program was a Hungarian company Oncompass; it has developed software program to support oncologists in choosing the right therapy for patients. Thanks to artificial intelligence, the software can forecast each patient’s response to thousands of targeted therapies against cancer. In this way the AI could make the next scientific revolution in medicine and truly channel the power of artificial intelligence in the right direction.
c) educating digital skills and retraining motivated people for software development based on a computer-guided peer-to-peer self-learning concept.
One of the biggest “digital issues” in the EU is production of microchips and semiconductors. Thus, the EU’s task is to increase microchips’ production in Europe to 20 percent in the global level by 2030: that’s twice the present level in a global market that is set to double in the next decade. So, it means quadrupling today’s European production; the new European Chips Act will back this ambition with considerable investment of about € 12 billion in additional public and private investment by 2030 in addition to over € 30 billion of public investments foreseen in such EU programs as the NextGenerationEU and Horizon Europe. These EU investment volumes will stimulate companies in the semiconductor’s sector to co-investing about € 6 billion per year. Source: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/da/speech_22_746.
Hence, the key to success in the EU’s digital education lies in Europe’s innovators, first-class researchers and developers. European continent has been the cradle of all industrial revolutions; the new one – the digital revolution – has just started. Therefore, the member states’ education providers and scientists have to join forces to make the digital revolution serving peoples’ interests. For example, the demand for advanced chips in Europe will double by 2030 and the Commission’s intention is to produce the needed chips in the EU.
Impact of artificial intelligence in the digital agenda is specifically vital: automation and “robotisation” will further affect human interactions and will specifically appear in the service field when “cars will drive themselves”, working and shopping will move online, etc. and all that would lead to more convenient lifestyles”, argues some experts while expressing concerns about the social effects of such change and predicting various upheavals and social disorders. More in: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=2022012509225275.
Twin transition in the member states recovery and resilience
The EU’ strategic socio-economic orientations for the member states also includes presently –within the twin-transition paradigm – the national recovery and resilience plans; the latter makes education system in the state’s the top political and economic agenda. Particularly in after post-pandemic period, the member states were making complex efforts to create resilient societies by the measures to equip citizens with necessary skills to withstand present and future economic and societal challenges. In the process of harnessing globalisation, it is important both to consolidate social cohesion and eliminate inequalities as the biggest task in education quality; thus, the member states have recognised that the long-term challenges are as important as the short-term ones.
However, during last few years, digital education transformation has been somehow absent from the national political scene, while recognizing at the same time that “the power of education and culture” plays important part in fostering resilient growth. Recently, the EU institutions were facing a serious crisis of trust and legitimacy, when millions of EU citizens were criticizing the EU’s efforts for the lack of safeguarding measures in states’ welfare, including education policy; although the states generally recognised the resounding success of all Erasmus programs. The latter shows the tangible impact and clear results of the European education policy, which is bringing positive added value to citizens: modern societies are exploring the results of the European cohesive policy but they need time to fully recover. However, even Commission still argues that the EU citizens are being less equal than before.
Hence, the EU’s strategic orientation in this regard is two-fold: to facilitate inclusive society’s trends, “re-engage” with those left behind and creating more resilient societies. Most important in the states are the trends towards providing modern societies with solid “existential basis” build on common values and the “sense of belonging”: hence it is the time to rediscover the importance of national and European values and address upfront the role of education in promoting them. One of the supporting EU’s tasks in this regard is to establish a solid European Education Area, EEA on the basis of clear visions for achievements by 2030, including solid foundations of excellence and innovation, equity and inclusion, as well as more exchanges among pupils, students and teachers among the EU-27.
Education communities in the states have to share their knowledge and experience in bringing fresh perspectives and ideas into the resilience process from all walks of life: from people with disabilities to experts bringing excellence and a sense of belonging to the most deprived areas; from people who are using culture as an incredibly effective vector of integration to dreamers who are testing new approaches in their own schools, to those teaching disciplines that are still wrongly perceived as being difficult inadequate. Besides, representatives of the private sector and business community are also taking active part; these as people who are enabling young generation to develop entrepreneurial mind-sets and who are committed to equip them with robust digital skills to turn them into active users and responsible citizens of the sustainable and digital Europe.