The Council of Europe - 800 million Europeans


Operational framework

Two bodies share responsibility for the Council of Europe education programme - the Steering Committee for Education (CDED) and the Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research (CD-ESR):

  • CDED representatives are drawn from the ministries of education of signatories to the European Cultural Convention.
  • CD-ESR is responsible for the Council’s higher education and research programme. Most of the Council’s committees are intergovernmental; the CD-ESR is the only pan-European forum for representatives from education ministries and the academic community.

Objectives and motivations

The Council of Europe considers the following educational issues:

  • How can education promote fundamental freedoms and pluralist democracy?
  • How can it bring the peoples of Europe closer together, foster mutual understanding and instil a trust which transcends cultural differences and national borders?
  • How can it help European governments and citizens to meet the major social challenges of the day?

These are ambitious goals and the Council tackles them by:

  • conducting major projects in school and out-of-school education (policies, curricula and methods);
  • pooling ideas, experience and research;
  • fostering contacts and exchanges, establishing networks and encouraging partnership;
  • working for the international recognition of qualifications;
  • publishing studies, handbooks and other practical material for policy-makers and teachers;
  • working with other European institutions and non-governmental organisations.

Partnerships for educational renewal scheme

Partnerships for educational renewal is an umbrella scheme for co-operation and assistance run by the Council of Europe Directorate of School, Out-of-School and Higher Education. It is a manifestation of the Council’s educational role, which is to promote democracy in Europe, support educational reform, disseminate Europe-wide standards and good practices and provide assistance and advice to member states with special needs.

Most of these activities involve assistance to individual member countries or to prospective members making structural changes in their education policies, legislation, standards and methods in the Directorate’s main areas of activity (namely democratic citizenship, languages and history). The Education Directorate also encourages regional co-operation and carries out activities designed to foster inter-faith dialogue on issues of common interest such as education and minorities policy and quality in education.

Education for democratic citizenship project

The Council for Cultural Co-operation (CDCC) launched the Education for Democratic Citizenship (EDC) project in 1997 to re-examine the meaning of participatory democracy and the status of citizens, pinpointing the values and knowledge people need to be active and responsible members of society.

During the first phase of the project, from 1997 to 2000, research focused on the necessary skills and training strategies. It served as a basis for training activities for assessing “citizenship site” projects and establishing a network of policy-makers, experts, practitioners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organisations.

The second phase (from 2001 to 2004) implemented and improved education-for-citizenship policies, setting up networks to pool practices and disseminate information on citizenship and human rights education in member states, so as to build pluralist democracies in Europe.

The 2005 European Year of Citizenship through Education was marked by a series of activities and events in various European countries throughout the year. Projects and field activities were launched at all levels of government (national, regional and local) in member states and by the Council of Europe itself. The Council has also introduced special programmes to help countries in democratic transition to devise new research and education programmes on these key subjects.

The new challenge of intercultural education

This project on religious diversity and dialogue was launched in 2002 to foster intercultural and inter-faith dialogue. It is one of the Council’s core activities and the project alerts policy-makers, educationalists and teachers to new approaches to intercultural education in general and its religious aspects in particular, in both school and out-of-school education emphasizing the best practical examples. Intercultural education covers a wide range - involving inclusion, participation and living together - and presents ways of meeting the challenges of multiculturalism and religious diversity in a context favouring democratic conflict resolution.

Higher education and research

CD-ESR is responsible for the Council of Europe’s higher education and research work. It aims to develop higher education and research in Europe on the basis of common democratic principles and the values of the European university heritage. This includes the freedom to learn, teach and research and the right to self-government for academic institutions within a democratic society.

Current priorities include the creation of a European Higher Education Area, promoting education for social cohesion, re-evaluating public responsibility for and governance of higher education and research in a changing social context, applying the Convention (ETS No.165) on the recognition of qualifications in the European region, reforming higher education in South-Eastern Europe, promoting access to higher education and preserving the autonomy and heritage of European universities.

The Bologna Process - creation of a European Higher Education Area

Higher education in Europe is currently undergoing the most extensive and significant reform for decades. The reform movement, known as the Bologna Process, aims to establish a European Higher Education Area by 2010. Education systems within this area will be open and easily understood, the degree system reformed and qualifications recognised. Higher education will be better adapted to the labour market and life-long learning encouraged.

The Council’s particular contribution will be in the area of recognition of qualifications and the reform of degree structures.

The CD-ESR acts as a link between countries in the Bologna Process and other signatories of the European Cultural Convention who can benefit from the Process without joining it formally.

Recognition of qualifications in Europe

The Council of Europe worked alongside UNESCO in this field within the framework of the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region (ETS 165). The Convention was opened for signature in Lisbon in April 1997 and came into force in February 1999. 50 countries have ratified the Convention and a further 3 have signed it.

The Council also co-operates with UNESCO in running a Network of national information centres on academic mobility and recognition (ENIC).

Public responsibility for and governance of higher education

The increased demand on public budgets and the ongoing Bologna Process and GATS mean that the scope of public responsibility for higher education needs re-evaluation. These changes also cast a spotlight on governance of higher education systems and institutions, drawing attention to the participation of all stakeholders in the process of governance. Two Council of Europe projects are currently addressing these areas, mapping out the options and offering recommendations and guidelines.

Language policies project

The “Languages, Diversity, Citizenship” project aims to develop policies for school and life-long language learning and to promote social cohesion and democratic citizenship. Activities include helping member states to review and plan their language education policies and the promotion of effective strategies for greater diversification in the languages offered in the curriculum.

The project is developing common European standards and support material to foster coherence and transparency in language curricula and qualifications. A common European six-level scale of language proficiency has been developed and is widely used, including by the European Union in Europass, a new scheme to facilitate transparency of qualifications. The project covers all aspects of language: national languages, instruction languages, foreign languages and migrants’ languages. It also contributes to activities concerning the education of minorities.

European Day of Languages

The Council of Europe has declared 26 September an annual European Languages Day to be celebrated all over Europe. It is a follow-up to the successful European Year of Languages 2001 organised jointly by the Council of Europe and the European Union. It involves thousands of people across Europe in events celebrating the benefits of linguistic diversity and language learning for mutual understanding and tolerance, democratic stability, employment and mobility.

The European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML)

Promotion of modern languages

The ECML, inaugurated in Graz, Austria, in 1994 under a partial agreement, supports 34 member states in implementing their language education policies. It promotes innovative approaches and good practice in the learning and teaching of modern languages.

The ECML runs a medium-term programme of projects organised in co-operation with European experts in language education. Participants from member states are invited to its workshops, conferences and research projects and the Centre provides a platform for gathering and disseminating information, stimulating discussion and training multipliers. It also maintains Europe-wide networks for teacher trainers, researchers and educational administrators.

History teaching

The teaching of history has a particular bearing on the knowledge, skills and attitudes of the future citizens of democratic societies. Recommendation (2001) 15 of the Committee of Ministers on history teaching in twenty-first-century Europe establishes the framework for the European Dimension in History Teaching Project on key dates and events which have shaped the recent history of Europe (1848, 1912/13, 1919, 1945, 1989). There are symposia and in-service teacher training seminars and an interactive database.

The Council of Europe has been involved in history education for a long time and is drawing on this experience to help new member states to reform their history curricula, publish new textbooks and train history teachers. Its three major projects include: a programme on curricula, standards, new textbooks and training in the Russian Federation; the Black Sea Initiative, involving Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine (one of its main outcomes was the preparation of the teaching pack on the history of this region which was published in 2004); and the Tbilisi Initiative, involving authors from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Russian Federation in the preparation of a joint history textbook.

The Council of Europe is also co-ordinating work on history teaching in South-East Europe, focusing on the training of history teachers, teaching resources, higher education and non-formal education for young people.

In 2004 the Council of Europe began its work on history teaching in Cyprus. It includes seminars and workshops on new methods of teaching history for reconciliation and tolerance, based on multiperspectivity and intercultural dialogue.

Education and remembrance

In response to the Recommendation on history teaching and to an agreement reached by the education ministers in Cracow in October 2000, the 49 signatories to the Council’s European Cultural Convention are now organising an annual Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and for the Prevention of Crimes against Humanity. The commemoration takes place in schools through lessons or projects, often interdisciplinary in nature, and each country is free to choose its own date according to its history.

The Council of Europe publishes a range of teaching materials specifically designed to help teachers prepare their lessons on the “duty of remembrance”.

Education for Roma/Gypsies project

The object of this project, which was launched in 2001 in response to Recommendation (2000) 4, is improved education for Roma children. It uses educational strategies specific to the Roma and offers practical suggestions as to how member states can incorporate this approach into their policies.

The emphasis is on empowering members of the Roma community, involving them in decisions on the policies affecting them, encouraging direct participation and enhancing the historical and cultural heritage of the Roma people through teaching materials produced during the project.

The Council of Europe supports and promotes the profession of Roma school mediator and has produced a mediators’ handbook.

The Europe at School competition

This annual competition is sponsored by the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Cultural Foundation. It is designed to interest schoolchildren in European issues.

Prize-winners are invited to Strasbourg for a week in July; they stay at the European Youth Centre, where they learn about the Council’s main programmes – particularly its education programmes – and about the European Court of Human Rights and Parliamentary Assembly. They also attend a prize-giving ceremony.

In-service training programme for education professionals

This programme gives a European dimension to school teaching and teacher training in the 49 countries that have signed the European Cultural Convention.

It is designed for education professionals (teachers, head teachers, inspectors, educational advisers, teacher trainers and textbook authors), who are in a position to spread the knowledge they acquire during their training. Some 2500 education professionals attend every year (including those from the host country) and it offers around 15 European workshops per semester on the Council of Europe’s key themes, with special emphasis on education: education for democratic citizenship and human rights, history teaching, responses to violence in everyday life in a democratic society, education for Roma/Gypsy children, intercultural and inter-faith dialogue and teaching the European dimension in schools.

Twice a year, in May and November, the Council publishes a list of European workshops hosted by various Convention signatories countries. The list, the application form, the list of National Liaison Officers in the 49 signatory states and practical information can be found on the Internet at:

A political organisation set up in 1949, the Council of Europe works to promote democracy and human rights continent-wide. It also develops common responses to social, cultural and legal challenges in its 47 member states.
2002 - The Council of Europe Information Office - Tbilisi.