On 29 January 2020, the European Commission, under the leadership of President von der Leyen, released its first annual Work Programme.
The planning is designed based on six headline objectives which outline the new Commission’s long-term priorities. Though education, training and lifelong learning are not prioritized, they feature throughout most of the objectives as a means to ensure that the citizens are prepared for the digital and environmental transitions, and for combatting political extremism.
To achieve the European Green New Deal regions, local communities, civil society, schools, industry and individuals have to collaborate to ensure the transition. This spirit of solidarity and cohesion, together with indications on lifelong learning for the transition, shall be tackled by the European Climate Pact, expected to be concluded in the third quarter of 2020. The development of digital skills for a ‘Europe fit for the digital age’ is crucial, highlighting yet again the role of education and lifelong learning in achieving the Commission’s agenda. Therefore, an update of the Digital Education Action Plan is foreseen for 2020’s second quarter, promoting digital literacy and integration in the digital society.
The Commission is aiming at opening consultations for the upcoming Action Plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, and implicitly also on the Pillar’s first principle, that of education, training and lifelong learning. Fostering skills, education and inclusion is essential for achieving the European Education Area, and the Commission has highlighted the need for a lifelong learning approach for this goal. As a result, it looks into presenting a new Skills Agenda for Europe (first quarter of 2020) and an Action Plan for Integration and Inclusion (fourth quarter of 2020).
Lastly, concerns about the eroding democratic regimes within the EU and of the shrinking civic space, the response comes in the form of a commitment to present a European Democracy Action Plan for improving the resilience of our democracies and address the threats of external interference in European elections, especially by developing free media, media literacy and critical thinking.
Even if relegated to the status of a tool for achieving the planned goals, education and lifelong learning feature extensively as a backbone to the Commission Work Programme. It is time that the Commission understands the benefit of learning in itself and the privileged position that this deserves in any long-term strategizing.