What Can We Learn from the European Commission’s Recent Summit on Education?

January 25th marked a critical milestone in the European Commission’s emphasis on union-wide educational standards. It’s European Education Summit proposes to be the first in a series (its sequel to come in fall of 2019) in which Europe’s top Education Ministers, professionals and representatives will band together to discuss the state of education in the European Union.

As the Commission explains, “This Summit follows the Gothenburg Summit in November 2017 where the Commission set out its vision to create a European Education Area by 2025, and the December European Council where Member States expressed a willingness to do more in the area of education.”

So what can we learn from this summit, and how can we apply those ideas to education outside of the European Union? Let’s take a look at a few of the most salient objectives contained within the event’s workshops, panels and master classes.

Education for Young and Old Alike

Lifelong education is linked to happiness and confidence, not to mention greater efficacy at work. It is time we recognize that education shouldn’t be restricted to those 18 and under. Education is, and should be, a lifelong endeavor. With the greater-than-ever need for innovation and entrepreneurial spirit (also discussed below), it’s critical we put in place programs that educate adults and even seniors.

The Role of Inclusive Values in Success

A huge part of the goal in pulling together the summit was to reduce inequalities and create an educational arena in which inclusion of the vast array of European identities was paramount. Additionally, the Commission’s hope is that attention to such values will help reduce the socio-economic inequalities that still divide Europa’s member states and the union as a whole.

Learning Through Physical Activity

The movement toward, well, movement is going strong. Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign is echoed around the world, including in the EU, as educators increasingly realize the importance of get-up-and-go in learning. Students’ brains work better when they get exercise, and we must continue to make this a priority throughout the school day.

Digital and Entrepreneurial Skills

More than ever, we require the services of the entrepreneurially minded. For instance, global STEM jobs are chronically underfilled not because there are too few graduates, but because STEM graduates still lack the necessary skills to meet job requirements. Digital proficiency is critical in this post-analogue age, and without a legislative emphasis on improving overall aptitude, we will continue to lack the innovators our nation and world needs.

Naturally, one summit is not enough to solve the rampant problems in education: underpaid teachers, obsolete policies, stale professional development, cramped budgets, low engagement, poor correlation between standardized testing and later success, the ongoing argument about mainstreaming, and more.

However, the summit’s main topics raise important questions and continue to highlight paths forward. As education becomes more diverse, more digital and increasingly expanded to a variety of ages, it is bound to become more effective and more inclusive. In the meantime, the summit also points to the fact that we have work to do.